Book Review: KooKooLand

KooKooLand Book Review

About the Memoir

Gloria Norris, the author and main character, writes about her upbringing in the projects of Manchester, New Hampshire. Much of the book chronicles her life in the 1960s with her mother, Shirley, father, Jimmy, and half-sister, Virginia.

Norris’s prose is hilarious and poetic. Though some may find some of it offensive, it captures the slang of the 60s and her deadbeat dad who’s a well-read but deeply disturbed, volatile, ex-merchant mariner, of Greek descent. A low-level criminal, he threatens to kill people and degrades every person, no matter their race, creed, sex, or heritage.

Gloria pals around with him on hunting and fishing expeditions to put food on the table. They visit the race track to bet on nags hoping for the big payout, and she rides along with him when he goes to manicure the lawns for the rich people across town.

He refers to Gloria as Dummkopf, Pipsqueak, Dracula, because of her crooked teeth, Slowpoke, because he challenges her to a race and never let’s her win, and Egghead, because she’s smart and makes straight As.

Gloria fantasizes about becoming rich and getting out of the projects like her father’s friend, Hank, who owns a gun shop. Hank’s daughter, Susan, bright and beautiful, becomes Gloria’s idol. Susan wants to be a doctor and move to KooKooLand, says Jimmy about California, to save poverty stricken, children. Gloria sets her sights on becoming a doctor too, “to get the hell out of the projects.”

Violence reaches the climax half-way through the book when two people are murdered. Against the odds, Gloria manages to persevere and create a life void of poverty—a life in KooKooLand.

Rating

I gave it a 4.5 out of 5 because I was only mildly disappointed in the last several chapters. Norris’s voice from her childhood was replaced by her adult voice. Though appropriate for the pacing of the book, and her age, I missed the verbiage she through around as a child.

I found this book on BookBub, and I was hesitant to purchase it because it was only $0.99. This was a steal! The book is riveting, dark, and hilarious, I couldn’t put it down! I have a Book Hangover!

Purchase the Book on Amazon or BookBub

Buy on Amazon: KooKooLand or Buy on BookBub: KooKooLand

More About the Author

Gloria Norris Website

Journal Prompt
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Journal Prompt for Mental Health

As I sat in silence on the sofa this morning, I contemplated the status of my life. I asked myself, what is the most important thing to me in this life?

Over the years I would have said to be skinny, to find love, to have more money, a successful career, tangible things like a bigger home, a nicer car, a fancy education, but in 2017 and 2018 I battled breast cancer, and March 7, 2019, I had surgery to relieve a herniated disc.

When I thought about the question, what is the most important thing in my life, my answer didn’t surprise me, and truthfully, I was happy to hear the words my health roll off my tongue.

Having good health is the cornerstone of life. Without it every other area in your life suffers. For me, I’ve had to take time off work which effects my income. I am unable to exercise, a trait so inherent I feel hopeless without it. I’m not talking about running marathons, I’m talking about being able to walk more than 50 feet at a time without getting winded. Poor health takes a toll on social activities, romance, and vacations. Everything in your life is affected when your health wanes.

I’m 43, almost 44, and I want to live a long, full, and healthy life. I want to have the successful career, I want to continue fostering healthy relationships with my family and friends, and yes, I still want tangible things, and fun vacations, but now I know I need to focus on good health.

When I get up in the morning, I am thankful for the life I have been given, for the body I have been given, I’m thankful for my friends and family, and for all I have attained in the last 43 years. I have worked hard for it.

I encourage you to take 15 minutes today and write why your health is the most important thing in your life. Share some of your thoughts with me in the comments section.

Best wishes,

Nicole

Reading Material

If you are looking for some light reading, check out In Print! on my blog. I have several articles published in local magazines. Some of my favorites are:

Cultivating Gratitude is a Work in Progress – Radish Magazine Sept/Oct 2018 – Pg 22. This article was one of my all-time favorites to write. I worked with the most beautiful human being. Kristi Nelson, Executive Director, Gratefulness.org. This article features a book about gratitude. The book is filled with thought provoking and inspiring quotes, and the illustrator did an exquisite job hand lettering every page.

Exploring Minnesota – Radish Magazine July/Aug 2016 – Pg 27. I loved writing this piece because of my love of Minnesota. I’ve lived in Minnesota for nearly 10 years, and I have loved exploring different corners of the state.

Before my battle with cancer, and now my current back issues, I haven’t been able to get out for long hikes or bike rides. This article is a great reminder of the beauty all around me, and I know, one day soon, I will be out exploring again.

Cats in the Hood – Wagazine Winter 2016 – Pg 22. My husband and I are cat parents. We love, love, love every aspect of our little cuties! I miss them when we travel, daydream about what they’re doing throughout the day, and I can’t wait to get nose kisses when I arrive home every evening! This article is about rescuing feral cats and the great lengths that people go to in order to protect them.

Women & Wine: From Grapes in France to Your Glass in Rochester – Mar/Apr 2017 – Pg 34. I learned so much about one of my favorite wines. I love sparkling wine! While I don’t buy champagne because of the cost, I seek out the lesser expensive Prosecco or Cava, it tastes just as good.

I hope you enjoy reading these selections as much as I enjoyed researching and writing them. Let me know what you think.

~Nicole

White Chicken Chili

This soup is one of my favorite recipes. It’s healthy and super easy. I try to make this on Sunday afternoon, and then I have dinner for the next night. I never feel like cooking on a Monday after a long day at work.

This soup also freezes well, so take your leftovers and save them for mid-week especially if you have a busy week ahead of you.

This dish is super for feeding a group too. I have made this several times for gatherings of six, and it’s always a hit.

Healthy White Chicken Chili

Super simple crock pot White Chicken Chili. Great on a cold winter’s eve.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time3 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 10 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Clean eating, Healthy, White Chicken Chili
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 300kcal
Author: thewhisperingpen

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can Northern beans drained
  • 1 whole diced fresh jalapeno
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 1 cup salsa verde mild, medium or hot
  • 1/2 lime use the juice from lime
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 avocado garnish
  • 1 package shredded mozzarella cheese garnish
  • whole cilantro leaves garnish

Instructions

  • Add olive oil,salsa verde and chicken broth to crock pot.
  • Add chicken breasts to stock.
  • Open can of Northern beans and rinse. Add to stock.
  • Chop onion and jalapeno. I use rubber gloves when pulling seeds from jalapeno. Add to stock.
  • Add herbs and spices. Save some whole leaves of cilantro for a garnish.
  • Cook on low for 3 hours. After breasts are cooked through, pull them from the stock and pull the meat apart. Return to stock.
  • Serve in ceramic bowls. Cut avocado into small chunks. Garnish with avocado, cilantro and cheese if desired.

A New Endeavor

I’m so excited about my latest accomplishment, and I would like to share my recent nutrition journey, and my results, with my friends and family. After my battle with cancer in 2017 and 2018, I wanted to learn more about healthy nutrition and exercise…this is how I met my friend, and Health Coach, Melissa Johnson.

I’m so excited about my latest accomplishment, and I would like to share my recent nutrition journey, and my results, with my friends and family. After my battle with cancer in 2017 and 2018, I wanted to learn more about healthy nutrition and exercise…this is how I met my friend, and Health Coach, Melissa Johnson.

Last year chemo left me fatigued, and now my current battle with severe back pain, has kept me from exercising. I wanted to remain as healthy as possible, and Melissa and I talked about the most important piece of the puzzle–nutrition. This led to my focus on healthy nutrition.

Melissa helped me get started with an Herbalife Nutrition Program. Nutrition is what helps fuel our bodies and helps to protect us on a cellular level. I have always been a healthy eater, but I have always given in to cheat meals and cocktails more often than I care to admit. I recently completed a 21-day online virtual challenge and lost 7 lbs! I held myself accountable for everything that went into my mouth.

The 21-day challenge does include an exercise piece for those who are willing and able. I am not advising you to stop working out because physical activity is still a huge piece to leading a healthy lifestyle. I am so limited in what I can do physically, I had no idea what to expect with this challenge.

I was astounded at the results I had without physical exercise! This has been a game changer for me! In three weeks, you can make significant changes in your overall health, and if you’d like, Melissa and I can help you every step of the way!

What is Herbalife?

Herbalife is the number one nutrition company in the world and has a presence in over 90 countries. They have the number one meal replacement shake that has helped me get the appropriate nutrients in each meal during my busy work schedule! I love knowing I can have 1 or 2 shakes in my day along with snacks and colorful meals to give me needed energy while keeping me at a healthy weight!

Herbalife is not low carb or high protein. It’s science-based, and it’s “balanced” nutrition so your body is getting healthy macronutrients and vitamins and minerals needed for a “complete meal.”

Join the 21-day Challenge!

The next 21-day online virtual challenge starts Monday, February 4. I would love to help you meet nutrition goals and more through this challenge! Feel free to contact me with any questions–better yet, ask me about a 3-day trial pack. It’s a great first step!

Fitness Friends Host a Chemo Party

Chemo PartyThis time last year I was going through my first rounds of aggressive chemo. Today, I am leaving you with a short excerpt from my journal, The Journey of My Jugs. My support system, otherwise known as my Fitness Friends, helped me through many milestones. This excerpt is about the party they hosted just days before my treatment began. Thank you Fitness Friends, and thank you to the rest of you for following my journey and supporting me along the way.

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After I found out my chemo schedule, my Fitness Friends hosted a chemo party. A party for chemo may sound odd, trust me, it was a good thing. We gathered at 5:30 p.m. at Sarah’s house and talked and laughed. I enjoyed food that night like a hiker who had traversed a 14er with nothing more than a few dried fruits and nuts. I knew food may be an issue in the coming months, so I savored every bite.

The party took my buzzing mind off of the looming chemotherapy. My friend Kellie brought her five week old baby. I am not a baby person because I feel like I might break them. Their little heads bobble around and they make me nervous. Plus, they might poop, vomit or sneeze and that was out of my realm of comfort. However, the little bundle brought hope to that party. Her innocence and hope made me giddy. The baby was passed around like a bong at a frat house. Everyone wanted a little piece of the innocence and no one wanted to give her up to the next person. I sat in awe checking out the tiny little toes and toe nails. She was beautiful and perfect.

The food line started with me. I filled my plate and walked out to the patio. It was a gorgeous fall evening. Everyone had their chance to give life updates. We discussed vacations, jobs, childbirth and so many things. We laughed and laughed, and for the first time in a while, I was happy. I was happy to have another day on the planet with so many beautiful women by my side.

I wanted to remember to take advantage of those days. Savor each moment and learn to be grateful for everything. I have heard cancer changes your life. Cancer made me slow down and be grateful. My life was filled with so many things to be grateful for.

~

Have a beautiful day!

Nicole

That’s One Stubborn Drain

Last week was my first post-chemo appointment with my oncologist. I am happy to report I am healthy and cancer-free. Below is an excerpt from my journal, The Journey of My Jugs. This piece illustrates the difficulty I had with my drain removal soon after surgery.

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My days began to run into each other. I continued doing arm wall walking exercises and strolled through my neighborhood every day. My mom taught me how to empty my right drain before she left.  I did laundry and a few chores around the house. I took naps and made myself food, and I wondered how long Righty, my right drain, was going to stay with me.

By day 12 I was concerned, but I kept draining the fluid and asking for patience and healing from the universe. In my head, I apologized for telling the nurse I wanted to leave the right drain securely attached because of the excruciating pain I felt when the left one was removed. I felt like I had jinxed ole Righty.

Day 15 arrived. I was angry. I was still producing about 30 ml of fluid, and I needed to be below that for at least two straight days. The first drain did not come out without a fight. She thrashed and yelled and screamed and cried—oh, wait a minute…that was me. The eight inch cord that came out of my left breast was extremely painful to remove, and I wholeheartedly believe she scared the living shit out of Righty.

Righty was now hanging on for dear life. No matter what I told her, she didn’t want to come out. I promised I would take pain pills and a Valium for the removal, so it would be painless. She insisted on producing fluid and staying comfortably wrapped inside my chest cavity.

~

I’m looking forward to working with Editor, Allison Roe. She will be consulting with me as I piece together journal entries and begin writing a manuscript.

~Nicole

Road to Recovery

My road to recovery, and my battle against cancer started one year ago today. At this time last year, I was recovering from a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. When I woke up from my five hour surgery, I was surrounded by my husband, my parents, and my dear friend Katie. Katie, a nurse at the same hospital, pulled some strings to get me a large, private room at the end of a quiet hall so I could rest peacefully through the night.

Here’s a brief excerpt from my journal entries I affectionately call, The Journey of My Jugs.

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Waking up from surgery was a blur. I remember opening my eyes to find my family sitting in a large private hospital room at the end of a hallway. The surgery lasted five hours, two more hours than they planned. While my plastic surgeon was finishing his handiwork, the pathology report came back from the lab with devastating news. There were trace amounts of cancer found in three lymph nodes. The lab insisted on removing more lymph nodes so they could be tested.

As I looked around my room, I reminded my mom of the three magic questions I wanted her to answer when I woke up from surgery. Was I alive or dead? Did they go straight to implants or did they use expanders? Did they find cancer in the lymph nodes? I was alive, and they were able to go straight to implants instead of having to go through the pain of expanders. (Expanders are temporary fluid sacks filled weekly so the skin can stretch slowly. Apparently, I had ample skin leftover to stuff and sew.) I was so happy to hear this news, but she had saved the worst news for last. The cancer was found in my lymph nodes. They removed several nodes; the surgeon wasn’t able to guess how many were taken. The news crushed my spirit for a moment. I couldn’t find any tears to go along with the disappointment, so I smiled and reminded myself to be grateful for another day on this planet. I am sure the anesthesia helped bring a smile to my face as well.

~

Thank you for stopping by and reading a part of my journey.

Nicole

False Hope

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, so I’m sharing a few paragraphs from The Journey of My Jugs. The following excerpt takes place a few of weeks after I was diagnosed. There was a brief moment when we thought my cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, and I was given good news for a change.

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Chapter 9: Good News

While I waited for the biopsy results, I tried to continue living a normal life. I tried to exercise and go to work and pretend my life was perfect. I received the phone call around 3 p.m. on a Friday. It was good news for a change; the first good news in four weeks. There were no traces of cancer in the lymph node they biopsied. I let out a sigh, smiled and started to cry—finally, some tears of joy.

That weekend, my thoughts were spiraling. I imagined the pain I would suffer after the double mastectomy. I realized the importance of having a grateful heart. I saw the importance of rest; working seven days a week wasn’t healthy. Most importantly, I realized I needed to start paying attention to my husband, who some days I wondered why he stayed with me.

I learned so many valuable lessons early in my journey. I learned to be grateful for the body I had because it could change in a heartbeat. I needed to stop criticizing my plump and dimpled rump, my short legs, my saggy boobs and my squishy tummy. Instead of criticizing her, I needed to love my beautiful body because it was merely housing my soul. I needed to spend more time creating a more beautiful soul.

A part of my body was about to be banished forever, and I wanted to hold on tight and tell her how sorry I was for treating her so poorly. But, it didn’t matter. She didn’t care. She was going to change whether I liked it or not.

~

Unfortunately, when I went in for surgery, cancer was found in my lymph nodes. I had 18 nodes removed at the time of surgery, which subsequently led to 25 radiation treatments. I am still undergoing physical therapy because of this.

A big thank you to all of you who continue to follow my journey and who continue to support me. You are all loved and appreciated more than you know.

Have a great week!

~Nicole

Finding Strength

The latest excerpt from my journal entries I affectionately call, The Journey of My Jugs, is an account of one of the many post-diagnosis appointments. When I received the dreaded diagnosis, I sat alone in the doctor’s office and promised myself I would have someone by my side for as many appointments as possible.

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I went into the clinic at 11 a.m. I had to fast before this procedure, and I was completely parched by the time the appointment started. Adlai sat next to me, and I realized how important it was to have him there. I almost started bawling in the waiting room. Tears welled up in my eyes as they have done many times since I was diagnosed. I wondered if tear ducts dried up.  Maybe I have an overactive tear-maker. There was a large, wheezing woman who sat across from us. I wondered if she had to fast. I wondered if she was just as thirsty as I was.

The phlebotomist called my name and asked for my birthdate. She took me back to a small private room. The chair was so high my feet barely reached the floor. She started asking what the weather was like probably because she could sense my fear of needles. “3-2-1 little stick,” she said.

Little stick my ass. That hurt. How big was the needle? It was less of a pin prick and more like a burning gouge. Maybe my veins were upset too. My whole body felt ravaged, so I imagined my veins were affected too. Every fiber of my being was trying to hold it together, still trying to grasp the devastating news and the positive in all of this.

I walked out with a small, white, gauze bandage around the gouge. Adlai was sitting alone. The plump woman was gone. He noticed the tears running down my cheeks, so he played a cat video on Youtube. I stopped crying, and started giggling at the kitties doing silly stunts. I looked at him and smiled. “Thank you,” I said softly. “I love you.”

“We’re going to get through this. Be strong. I know you have it in you, but you have to be the one to find it,” he said.

~

Throughout my journey, he always had the right words, or the right cat videos to help ease some of the pain and the stress.

Does anyone else use cat videos for a laugh?