Category Archives: Memoirs

Memories that reveal who I am.


My ex-husband died.

How am I doing?

It is difficult.

I loved someone with all my heart, then the love was betrayed, and a chain of hurts took place, and I finally became reconciled to there being only these things left: two elusive treasures, a few good memories, and a million bad memories.

In the meantime my own garden flourishes. A new and faithful and true love appears. There is much healing. The treasures grow and prosper, each developing in lovely and unexpected ways. I also grow in lovely and unexpected ways.

I’m ready for this painful era of my existence to wash off the beach and out to sea.

Strandhill in County Sligo, Ireland – August 2021

Shadows and Lessons

I took some pictures this morning that taught me some surprising things.

Blackrock Castle 6 am 11 May 2021
Water Shadow Blackrock Castle 6 am 11 May 2021

I was delighted to be up and about on such a splendid day. I have taken many pictures of the Castle but never one of its reflection, which I called a shadow.

Sun Shadow 6 am 11 May 2021
Sun Shadow 6 am 11 May 2021

Then I was able to photograph the sun and it’s long reflection, which I whimsically called a sun shadow.

VG 6 am 11 May 2021
My own shadow 6 am 11 May 2021

Then I saw my own shadow. I almost passed it by. Then I decided to take a picture.

Then I thought about the scripture verse about “who by taking thought can add a cubit to his stature?” And I thought, I just did. That’s a tall shadow. I felt proud. Then I thought, “Why is my shadow so tall? Because I got up so early.” And I felt proud again.

Then I thought, “It just shows what you can accomplish if you get up early every day.” More shadow, more height, more power, more influence, more connection.

My voice professor used to say, “The higher you rise, the bigger shadow you cast.” He went on, “And the higher you get, the bigger your shadow, the more people are standing in that shadow saying I want that to be me.” That could be for good or evil. He said it to me as a warning.

But I am old and reckless now. I’ll take it as a positive thing. So I’ll continue to rise early, cast a long shadow, and see what I’ve left to influence in this old world.

Sean Daniel – Self-Portrait

10,000 Steps a Day in May

A few years ago, I had two total knee replacements, but I recovered and walk fine. The problem was, I was not walking. I was turning into a slug and my knees were stiffening. And when the first lockdown came in 2020, I decided to learn to make soda bread and scones and lemon curd and FOOD!

All this and NOT walking led me to gain 50 whole pounds – not the COVID-19 pounds people joke about. 50! And me not walking. Which led me to be pretty darned depressed – fat and feeling like a big useless depressed slug.

I started walking in March 2021 and have committed to doing so every day. I increased my steps from only 17 thousand steps in February to 147 thousand steps in March. I use an LL Bean walking stick to help my balance and to exude authority over my walking space. My current goal is 4 km per day every day at a rate of 18 minutes per kilometer or better.

Catching my breath on the Mahon Greenway

Then, on Facebook I saw the invitation to walk 10 K a Day in May for the Mater. Well, my inner walking hero decided this was for me. It was only about 2000 steps more a day than I was walking already. The beautiful orange tee shirt was the deal maker – I wanted to walk in a bright orange shirt!

To Donate

SOOOOOOO……I signed up in
April and started to make an effort to walk 10 K that day – which I did! Today I am going to try to do the same. Then I will be ready for May, you see. It will be a piece of cake. Which, by the way, I don’t feel like eating so much since I’ve refocused my goals AWAY from the baking oven and onto the walking path.

Already I can feel big differences in my body though my weight has not gone down. My clothes fit better, and my skin looks nice, and I just feel more in control of my impulses! I figure the weight will drop automatically and I need not worry about that as long as I get out there and WALK.

Furthermore, ME taking care of ME keeps me out of the Mater, so that the hospital front line workers can take care of people who really need it.

Click arrow below!

I closed my video this way…

“So if you are dangling on the edge of commitment, jump on in. The Mater’s fine!”


10K Steps a Day in May

Mama Got Murdered

Mama – Virginia Isabelle Wathen “Virginia Belle”
Me in 2021; Mama in about 1985

Yes, it happened. I still can hardly believe it. I lived in Oklahoma at the time and Mama lived in Atlanta, Georgia. My brother Tom called and said, “I have the worst possible news to tell you that I could ever tell you.” I knew Mama must be dead then, but there was more. Some people had broken into her house and killed her. She was not assaulted, just knocked over the head and she died from it.

Tom Giglio and Virginia Wathen Giglio

The police never found who did it. They were of the opinion that the murder was an accident; the murderers thought the house was empty and were looking for money or valuables and my mother came out of the bathroom and surprised them. Evidently they hit her over the head and laid her on her bed. The police said that was a mark of respect for the victim. The murderers did take her diamond rings off her fingers and they stole her pistol which was in a drawer by her bedside. At first the police thought they might be able to trace the murderers by identifying the pistol when it came to light, but that never happened. They believed the robbery to be drug-related, as there were drug users in the neighborhood and a needle park a few blocks away.

All of us siblings (five of us) were aghast and took it very hard, and very differently. I wish we had all gone to counseling together about it. Wouldn’t it be nice if that’s something that was provided to victims immediately, before they make mistakes with one another that are fueled by confusion and grief and disbelief? Or shaken beliefs.

So, we have never had to endure a trial, or a mistrial, or any kind of monkeyshines in a courtroom. As for myself, it didn’t take long for me to forgive the people who murdered my mother. They were likely drug addicts who died not too long after she did. They did not profit by the robbery in any financial way. But they sure messed up the house. And the police did the rest.

The fingerprint powder all over the house was a worse mess than the ransack. It is a greasy black substance that is hard to wash off. The police also transported my mother’s body to the coroner and by the time she was released she was in no condition to be seen – too much time had elapsed before embalming took place. She had a closed casket, so we didn’t get to say goodbye to her sweet face.

All of us took it differently. I will speak only for myself.

I became compelled to do things RIGHT NOW that I had always wanted to do. I lost weight, bought new clothes, took a leave of absence from my teaching assistant position and my PhD work, and decided to get out of the orchestra pit and onto the boards. I had always wanted to be on stage, not playing flute for the actors.

So I decided to audition until I got a part. And soon I did. Evidently I brought some passion to the auditions, because I got the lead in one production (The Glass Menagerie at The University of Oklahoma) and a character singing role in another production of The Old Maid and the Thief. I started water exercise and stopped eating and got very very thin, down to 106 pounds. I couldn’t eat. Thinking of Mama dead took away all desire to eat.

At first I could not watch violence on TV or in the movies. It was real to me; it had happened to me.

Later, I became enthralled with violence and emotion in movies. There was a movie where Mel Gibson played a suicidal cop who shouted “Shoot me! Shoot me! Shoot me!” and I felt such catharsis. I guess I had kind of a violent inner depression. I felt a bit like a lethal weapon myself.

It took years to get over the PTSD of my mother’s murder. It still crops up from time to time.

Tom Giglio, me, Angela Giglio Andrews, John Giglio, Jim Giglio after Mama’s funeral. Giglios laugh when their hearts are breaking.
Mama in 1928 – 18 years old
Graduation from Blessed Sacrament Academy in 1927

Old Resumes are Interesting

I came across the resume I used when applying for the position of Patient Access Representative at Kingfisher Mercy Hospital. I’m going to post it here in the memoirs because it will jog my memory for future writing. But also gives a snapshot of me at a particular space in time and what I had to say about myself. It is an attempt to summarize my experience for the purpose of getting the job. So glad Lisa Wilkinson hired me!

Denise Boots, Travis Boots, Chasity Kirkman, Barbara King, Lisa Wilkinson

Virginia Giglio
Kingfisher, OK


• Sunny disposition

• Enthusiasm

• Compassion

• Enjoy Teamwork

• Organization

• Ability to Help People Understand Difficult Concepts


Oral Communications

o Teacher

o Fund Raiser

o Telemarketer

o Toastmasters Member

Office Operations

o Budgeting, Customer Service, Clerical and Bookkeeping

o Ran Small Businesses

o Secretary for a city social services department

o Secretary for an elder services department

o Telemarketer, Great Expectations, Inc.

Written Communications

o Published Author (Books and Articles)

o Editor (Books and Articles)

o Journalist (Newspaper)

o Publicist (Events, Causes, People)

o Focused Online (Webs, Social Media

Leadership / Organizational Skills

o Fund-raiser, volunteer coordinator, organizer

o Kingfisher Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner

o Kingfisher Rough Rider Bicycle Festival to Benefit Kingfisher Hospital

o Grant writer, Kingfisher Wheatbelt AMBUCS

o Professional Conference (Academic and Recording Industry Alliances)

Computer Skills

o Web Master

o MS Office

o Quicken

o Photoshop

o Technical Writing


College Teaching 1985-1997

o Bureau of Prisons, El Reno, Oklahoma

o University of Oklahoma

o Wesleyan University, Connecticut

o University of New Haven

o Florida Atlantic University

Technical Writer and Secretarial 1997-1999

o Secretary, City of Wethersfield, Connecticut Social Services Department

o Secretary, Palm Beach County Jewish Community Center

o Nortel Networks Caribbean and Latin American Region

o AutoNation

Small Business Owner 1999-2015

o Web Design – Global Thinking, Inc.

o Free-Lance Journalist for Kingfisher Times and Free Press

o Consignment Antique Shop – Kingfisher Antiques

o Commercial Flower Farming – Virginia’s Zinnias

o Alterations, Clothing Repairs, Fabric Shop – Silk Sword Sewing


o Post Doctoral Studies, New York Institute of Technology, 1997

▪ Coursework in Instructional Technology for Trainers in Industry

o Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education, University of Oklahoma, 1991

▪ Dissertation: Oklahoma Cheyenne Women’s Traditional Everyday Songs

▪ Award: Outstanding Dissertation, Fine Arts and Humanities, 1992

o Master of Music Education, University of Oklahoma, 1987

o Bachelor of Music, Georgia State University, 1974

This resume got me the job that put me where I am today, Ireland. It’s amazing what can make a huge difference in the trajectory of life’s journey. The photo below is me as a Patient Access Representative.


A poem by Mary Oliver came to my attention and I thought of my husband Neal.

So every day

I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth

of the ideas of God,

one of which was you.

Mary Oliver
Walking at Blarney Castle Gardens

What Led Me to Chaplaincy?

This abrupt change of topic since my last post is the result of an invitation to submit an article to “The Carer” magazine of the National Association of Healthcare Chaplains in Ireland.

After retirement from academe and business, I became bored. I did not know I was on the verge of a total career re-trajectory and a retired life of surprising spiritual purpose.

It started when I was invited to apply for a position as a Patient Access Representative in the Emergency Room for the 3 –11 pm shift at a small community hospital (part of the Mercy system) in the town of Kingfisher, Oklahoma. This demanding position required me to be the first face seen in emergency situations, taking down information for the patient and the benefit of physicians; I was also in charge of billing the patient and collecting monies due. I became close to patients quickly in several of ways: emotionally, psychologically, physically, and financially. I found patients turning to me as a listening ear in all these areas.

I soon began to drift outside my job description: sitting with uneasy patients, suicidal patients, or patients with dementia. This allowed the busy ER nurses to continue their work while I comforted the patient. Part of my unassigned work involved prayer, and it became common for the nurses to say, “Virginia, will you pray for room 3? They need it.”

I realized that I was acting like a Chaplain but with no training. Dangerous, I thought. After some research I discovered that “Big Mercy”, that is, Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City (OKC), was offering Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and I applied for it.

I realized that I had some strikes against me. I had no academic theology background, and I was edging up to the age limit. On the other hand: 1) I believed I had a calling 2) I had a PhD with a specialty in Ethnomusicology which gave me a multi-cultural focus 3) I was an Associate of the Sisters of Mercy and 4) I had almost 3 years work experience in the ER. To my great delight, I was accepted into the Mercy CPE program with the Reverend Doctor Unyong Statwick, Supervisor.

In my CPE program at the 380 bed hospital, I worked intensely for an 8 month extended unit, accomplishing more than double the required amount of floor hours while I gained chaplaincy experience in cancer, orthopaedic, rehab, neo and post-natal, internal medicine, surgery, emergency, and intensive care units. I became known as “the Singing Chaplain” because many of my visits ended with me singing to or with the patient and/or their families. I also had the opportunity to lead or participate in worship services in the hospital chapel.

Verbatims were exciting because I was committed to being a better Chaplain and was fearless in self-examination and in the tasks that presented themselves; these included reconciling with family members to whom I had not spoken in years. I dealt with some deep hurts, including the murder of my mother, a miscarriage, and a divorce.

In the meantime, my husband, also retired from business, was in a CPE program of his own. CPE has strengthened and deepened our marriage commitment. CPE Interpersonal Group discussions (IPG) has provided us with new skills of communication, reconciliation, and emotional awareness.

Because my husband Neal Dunnigan is a foreign-born Irishman, we explored the idea of moving to Ireland to continue our training as Chaplains. After an interview and visits to potential placement opportunities, we were encouraged by our Irish colleagues and future mentors to apply for CPE at two institutions in Cork.

Neal applied for the program at Cork University Hospital, and I applied for the program at Northridge House / St. Luke’s Home. After acceptance we downsized our lives by auctioning our house and all our property except for a 200 cubic foot shipping crate of our most meaningful possessions (mostly musical instruments, art, and martial arts weapons.)

It was an extremely wrenching experience. We left behind four children and five grandchildren. We parted with most material possessions. We moved from a 1.5-acre property with house in rural Oklahoma to a 2-bedroom apartment in Cork. Everything we now own we use – nothing is stored or closeted.

We began our work at our respective institutions and have had our heads down ever since. We have been in Ireland almost three years, active in the Unitarian Church Cork, and my husband achieved Board Certification while starting Cork Community Chaplaincy Services to minister to the carers of the homeless in Cork.

Since Covid-19 struck, my work at St. Luke’s has been on and off depending on the levels of lockdown. I have been able to upgrade resident charts for HSE compliance by applying spiritual assessment techniques and have assisted nurses to understand how to use the HOPE assessment tool. I have continued singing and playing flute for the residents.

My call to chaplaincy, as well as my husband’s, has taken us out of our home country, delivered us of almost all of what we owned in the past, and provided us with meaningful futures. Self-care is a priority for us as we are in our sixties and we cannot afford to let our cups go empty. We find Ireland to be a healthier place to live than formerly, and we walk every day on the wonderful greenways and paths of our new home country.

Chaplaincy has been a calling and a life for us this past half-decade. We never expected to find so much education, awareness, and growth in a time when many people think it is time to slow down or just stop. God willing, we shall not be stopping any time soon.

Written at the request of the Reverend Bruce Pierce
10 April, 2021

Neal and Virginia at the Northridge Elder Care Conference in 2019

Neal at Last

Neal sounded as much fun on the phone as he did on the pages of the GE notebook.

So we decided to meet for dinner on a Saturday night after his “Japanese fencing” workshop. (?)

We met in the bar of a lovely restaurant called Saybrook Fish House in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. Within 15 minutes I was in love. Why? He was so fascinating, funny, kind, intelligent, and attractive (muscular, shaved head, lively eyes). I thought, “I could spend the rest of my life talking with this guy.”

He told me that he had spent the day in an Aikido martial arts weapons workshop. Aikido is a synthesis of pacifist martial arts techniques and meditation. I told him about my work with cultural preservation among the Cheyennes of Oklahoma. He told me about his work as a Board Member of The Connection, a social service organization to help drug and alcohol impaired people in a live-in setting (he would later serve as President.) I told him about teaching at Wesleyan and my involvement with the College Music Society dedicated to excellence in college music teaching. We spiraled around all our interests breathlessly and talked about our children and our dreams for our lives.

Neal stopped at one point and said the nicest thing – and it was not a “line” because I’ve come to know he is incapable of dishonest flirting.

“I have to admit I’m a little bit intimidated being with a woman as beautiful as you,” he said. I was floored. There I was, feeling all fat and physically inadequate compared to this trim lifelong martial artist.

Well, we started breaking Great Expectations rules right and left. He invited me to his condo (across the street) and we drove over in his car. Bad bad us. He showed me around his nice neat home and pointed out the tile floor he installed himself, and his herbs in pots, and he lit a candle. We started making out. Bad bad us. But wow!

Pretty soon I went home like a good girl and we started dating. Our second date was his visit to the rehearsal of the Wesleyan Gamelan (Indonesian orchestra) of which I was a member. He sat in the back in on his knees and meditated while he listened. We drove home in the rain listening to Sting (Ten Summoner’s Tales). On another date I gave him the tape. (No CDs then.)

It was time to meet each other’s children,

Nice Guys starting with N

One thing joining Great Expectations did for me was prove that there were a lot of very nice gentlemen left in the world. And they wanted to meet me! I had a few dates and a nice trip to New York City with one, a college professor, but he was fond of his pipe and that just did not work. I also found him to be a bit too old – which ordinarily was attractive.

I realized that I had dated too many older men. It was obvious I was looking for my father for some reason – maybe for wisdom and security. But then I had a life-changing thought.

Instead of looking for my father as an older man, why not look for the attributes of my father in a younger one? Or, try to find my father when he was my age, not older.

I think this way of thinking gave me a healthier approach to finding a new husband, and that was what I was really looking for, not just fun dates.

So I went back to the GE library and started again. I decided – why not look for a guy with one of my favorite names? I had always loved the name Nick, so I picked up the N notebook and started hunting. As I flipped through the pages, I saw a face that made me think HOLD THE PHONE.

There was a completely bald guy with a huge mischievous smile and nice suit and red tie. And I thought, “That guy looks like so much fun! I’d like to meet him just to make friends!”

Then I read his bio. Non-smoker. Father of two. Divorced my divorce year. Born my birth year. Religion: Zen Catholic. What the heck was that? But it sounded intriguing. His idea of a perfect date? A picnic. His idea of fun? Playing with his children and pets.

Politics? He wrote “Personally, I’m waiting for the New Deal to come back.” He described his surroundings: terra cotta tile, candles, herb garden. Marriage? Interested. And he said he gave a good massage.

Heavens! Now I’m super interested. I began the process of meeting him and waited. And waited. I had almost given up and in the meantime dated other GE guys. Then the phone rang one night.

“Hello, this is Neal Dunnigan…”


Continuing the story of how I met Neal…

After I sent in the postcard, I was invited in to the Great Expectations (GE) office for an interview. I discovered that the place was a quality outfit, doing criminal record and financial checks on all potential members. And I liked the procedure.

Every member had photos taken by a professional; one was dress up, the other casual. Then a professional videographer interviewed you for a VCR tape. You wrote a bio, and answered questions about yourself and whom you were looking for.

When you finished all that, you were entered into a notebook (this was before internet dating) and you were placed on the shelf alphabetically in the Candy Store – a joking name for the library of members.

You came into GE, passed Security, and visited the notebooks set up in a kind of library with coffee and tea available. If you saw someone’s page who looked interesting, you asked for the video. If you liked the person you saw in the video, you let the “librarian” know and she sent that person a postcard (this is before email was common.)

The postcard recipient then came into the library at their convenience and looked at your photos, bio, questionnaire, and video. If they wanted to meet up, they were given your telephone number. (No mobiles yet, remember!)

On the phone you both agreed to an appointment, arriving in separate cars, in a public place. Just having coffee was encouraged, but dinner was ok too. You paid for your own meal. People were discouraged from going to the other’s home on the first date. Physical contact was discouraged on the first date. Counseling was available in the GE offices.

This was a pricey deal. GE was manned by quality folks. It was on the up and up all the way. They even threw picnics and parties to help people become acquainted. They gave seminars on various topics such as dating, relationships, etc.

I became convinced that this investment was worth making, because I wanted to see New York City and other places in the NE but not alone. (Thanks to an inheritance from my mother I had the $1500 fee.) I figured that the companionship and opportunities were worth the money even if I did not find Mr. Right. It was the safety and seriousness I liked.

It definitely turned out to be a worthwhile investment for many interesting reasons.

I wore a turquoise nubby silk blazer and black turtleneck and Cheyenne beadwork jewelry for my photo. My hair was salt and pepper and very chic; I wore long black leather boots and a smile. I can’t remember my casual photo. I wrote a pretty sexy bio heavy on the intellect and compassion angles. In those days I was hot to trot and I was not coy about it. But I was not brazen. You had to be a thinking man to “get it.”

I was looking for sophistication, intelligence, adventurousness, health, taste, an interest in the arts, and financial security. And a good dancer. My sons said to be honest! Most importantly, this man had to have good father potential. I would rely on my Mama Bear instincts for that one.

Let the fun begin….