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!

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.

~

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.

~

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

Breast Cancer Diagnosis: A Wave of Sadness

When I was diagnosed at age 42 with stage 3 breast cancer, I knew I wanted to write a book about the journey. I knew the writing process would be cathartic for me, and I wanted the end result to inspire others tackling breast cancer or adversity of any kind.

One in eight women will develop an invasive form of breast cancer in their lifetime, so another goal I have for this book is to bring more awareness to younger women. It’s so important to do your monthly breast exams and to make that appointment for your first mammogram when you turn 40.

Many of you may have followed me on my CaringBridge site for the weeks following my diagnosis. I mused about my double mastectomy, the strength and courage I was given from family and friends, shaving my head, and a few other milestones.

The next few paragraphs are from my first journal entries, moments after I received the dreaded breast cancer diagnosis.

~

There was still no fighting the tears and the ugly cry that had taken over me, so I called my husband Adlai, and I heard those famous words, we’ll get through this together. Another wave of sadness hit me. One deeper than anything I have ever felt. I haven’t been giving our relationship the time it deserved; instead I have been working full-time and picking up freelance writing jobs to grow my byline. My weekends were filled with writing assignments while my week nights were filled with teaching fitness classes or preparing for 5k and 10k races. I made my husband entertain himself. I felt like a terrible wife. Now, I was a terrible wife with cancer and a pity party was already in progress.

What would I say on my deathbed? I would tell him to find someone else, to remember me, but find someone else to love. I would tell him to find someone who will share a hunting experience with him, someone who loves to ride in boats that go really fast, someone who is a better wife than me.

I sobbed the entire way home. I felt like there was no hope for a new life after cancer even though my doctor was positive about my prognosis. My doctor drank from the glass that was half full, while I was drinking pulp at the bottom of a glass.

~

I hope you enjoyed this passage from The Journey of My Jugs. Be on the lookout for future posts that include more excerpts from my book. If you want to read more, please check out my CaringBridge site for longer passages.

The Diagnosis

Flowers from Mom_2

On Monday, July 3rd, the day before my 8th wedding anniversary, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The devastating blow left me speechless. I didn’t have my husband beside me, nor did I ask friends or family to join me at the doctor’s office on this fateful day. Although my gut feeling was right, I didn’t think I needed anyone by my side until minutes later when the flood gates opened. I cried walking out of the hospital doors, I cried sitting in the car calling my mother, husband and friends. I cried the entire car ride home. And finally, I cried as I fell into my husband’s arms when I arrived at home.

There’s nothing that can prepare a person for the start of this journey. But the love and support I have seen over the last several weeks has been astounding. It’s truly amazing to see and feel how many people love you and want to help you.

Breakfast Delight!

Hello Friends!

I survived day one of the Whole Life Challenge, and day two is shaping up nicely as well. Yesterday, I completed a workout, stretching session, stayed hydrated, wrote in my journal and managed to eat very well.

For those interested in a tasty, but healthy breakfast, I have a recipe for you. I made Yellow Squash pancakes courtesty of the blog, Baker by Nature. Before you turn up your nose, I am here to say they turned out quite well. I too was skeptical as I mixed all the ingredients together. I had to substitute a few things because of all my restrictions, you’ll find those in italics.

Healthy Greek Yogurt Zucchini Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (Oat Flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt (unsweetened plain)
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (Stevia-here’s the conversion chart)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional, but if you don’t add it sub in an extra tablespoon of brown sugar) (I had to omit honey, so I added a bit more stevia)
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded zucchini (yellow squash because I had it on hand)
  • Butter, for the pan (I typically use 2-3 tablespoons for one batch of pancakes)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg yolks, Greek yogurt, vanilla, brown sugar, and honey.
  3. Add flour mixture to the wet mixture, and stir just to combined; do not over mix! The batter will be thick, so don’t worry if there are a lot of clumps left.
  4. Add egg whites to a large bowl or the body of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks begin to form.
  5. With a rubber spatula fold egg whites into flour/yogurt mixture, stirring until fully incorporated. Stir in zucchini, mix until just incorporated. Always be sure to watch your mixing, as over-mixed batter = rubbery, tough results.
  6. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  7. Ladle 1/3 cup scoops of the batter into the skillet, only cooking a few at a time so they don’t blend together.
  8. Cook pancakes until the edges begin to brown and the top of the batter bubbles, then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Repeat for all pancake batter.
  9. Top pancakes with honey, syrup, berries, or anything else your little heart desires! Serve at once.

 

Squash pancakes

Yellow squash pancake with a drizzle of butter and a few blackberries on top. Yummy!

 

 Today’s Haiku:

a breakfast delight
moist squash pancakes and berries
to please my palate