Nora McInerny Purmort laughs, cries, and changes diapers in the face of pain

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Nora McInerny Purmort and her son, Ralph // Photo courtesy of Nora McInerny Purmort

There’s no other way to put it: Nora McInerny Purmort is a certified badass.

The 33-year-old’s blog, My Husband’s Tumor, went viral due to the raw, touching insight it offered into the real life ups and downs of her husband’s battle with cancer and what life’s been like since he passed on November 25, 2014. She started a successful nonprofit, Still Kickin’, in 2015 to help support families struggling with sudden tragedy. She wrote an article for “Medium” about a random men telling her she needed to smile more and became a spokeswoman against misogyny and harassment. And this May, she’ll add “author” to her ever-expanding resume when her memoir, “It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool, Too),” is published, bringing her strength and sense of humor to an even larger audience who may not already know her story.

Purmort bookWhile most would agree that McInerny Purmort appears to be someone who can manage just about anything and everything that comes her way, on a chilly spring day she is struggling with a challenge that even she may not be strong enough to overcome: potty training.

Her three-year-old son, Ralph, is holding court in the living room, tossing around Legos and looking for ways to get his mom’s attention.

“Ralph, I don’t want you to have those Legos unless you go pee in the toilet,” McInerny Purmort says in a tone that anyone with a mom knows all too well. Unfortunately, Ralph is unfazed.

“Yes but I want them, and I found them,” he says as he begins stacking the blocks in the middle of the floor. He explains to me that he’s making tacos, but ultimately gets bored and abandons the project.

With a sigh and an eye roll, McInerny Purmort accepts defeat and sends Ralph outside to play in the yard.

“It’s so weird to look at him some days and realize he’s like a small person,” she says as she begins fidgeting with the Legos. Her openness and keen sense of self-awareness are what have endeared McInerny Purmort as a writer and storyteller to thousands of friends, supporters, acquaintances, and complete strangers the world over. But even with the upcoming release of her book, the Twitter bio-self-described “tall glass of milk” says she never saw her blog as a potential entry point into the literary world.

“I knew I wanted to write a book, but it’s not like I was sitting here thinking, ‘I can’t wait for Aaron [her late husband] to die so that I can write a book about it,’” she says. “I wrote that blog because I saw value in remembering the things that can be really forgettable. Everyone remembers the big days—your wedding, birth of a child, stuff like that. What you forget are the clothes you were wearing or the songs you heard, because in those moments sometimes you just want to close your eyes and get through this part of your life as quickly as possible.”

Through her online presence (don’t call it a “brand;” she hates that), McInerny Purmort says she found an outlet to process her feelings while also learning quite a bit about who she is as a writer and a person.

“I learned that I’m not for everyone,” she laughs. “The internet is a fucked-up place. You have to take what you want and leave the rest. I try not to read stuff about myself, but I’m human, so I’ll definitely catch myself checking out tweets or comments and getting all wrapped up in it.”

A quick search shows that McInerny Purmort’s online following is overwhelmingly complimentary and supportive, however—likely a side effect of her tone and predominately sunny disposition, which make her feel like a friend you’ve known for years—there are still a few assholes out there, too.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people who leave me feedback are positive, and one percent is fucked up,” she says. “You get people who want to be friends, and they’re typically good people. The weirdos are rarer, but stuff does happen sometimes. The thing is, if someone is going to be an asshole to me, then I’m going to talk about it. It’s like, you picked the wrong fucking girl. I don’t get it. It costs zero dollars to be a decent person; just do that.”

Next page: ‘It’s Okay To Laugh’ not a rehash of blog

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