I'm Terrible, Thanks for Asking

by Nora McInerny

Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine.

In 2015, I was totally fine. Finer than fine. And why wouldn’t I be? Just a few months before, I’d lost my husband to brain cancer, my dad to cancer of the everything, and my second pregnancy. By “lost them,” I mean that they died. I didn’t lose them at sea, or in the dairy section of Costco.

Everyone from close friends to Internet strangers wanted to know how I was doing. And everyone heard the same thing: "I’m fine.” “I’m fine.” “I’m fine, fine, fine.”

If you can believe it, I was not actually fine. Watching as my husband’s brain tumor reduce him to a thin, gray replica of himself? That had a negative effect. Having our second child vacuumed from my uterus? Made an impact. My dad going from a healthy to dead in five months? It took a toll.

Read more on Buzzfeed. 

My husband died of brain cancer in his 30s. Thanks to Obamacare, it didn't bankrupt us.

by Nora McInerny

What would we have done if he’d gotten sick in an America where the AHCA was the law of the land?


Aaron and I had been dating a year when my phone rang at work — his co-worker wanted to know if Aaron had ever had a seizure. I said something along the lines of, “Of course not! Who has seizures?” and rushed to the hospital to meet his ambulance. Aaron seemed fine, but the doctors weren’t so convinced, and soon I was pushing him in a wheelchair down to an MRI machine, where doctors took pictures of Aaron’s brain and I took pictures of him in an MRI machine for Instagram. The results were some mediocre social media content and a giant brain tumor that needed to come out immediately. The brain tumor was stage IV cancer.

It was 2011, a year after the Affordable Care Act passed.

Three years later, Aaron died in my arms of brain cancer at age 35, leaving me a widowed mother to our young son, and you know what I think? I think we were lucky.

Read more on Vox


Ask Nora: My Boyfriend Has a Brain Tumor. Should I Marry Him?

by Nora McInerny

I'm taking your questions about life, love, and lizards. Starting with this one, which is kind of a doozy.

I got a message from a 22-year-old who was planning to marry her boyfriend, who she'd been dating for ages. Her boyfriend has a brain tumor. A cancerous one, that can't be fully removed. And suddenly, the parents who were so excited to have a new son don't want her hitching her wagon to a star that is going to burn out too soon. They assumed that the diagnosis meant that any wedding plans were off. Their 22-year-old daughter certainly didn't intend to marry a man with brain cancer, did she? Well, uh, she did, actually. Her parents weren't movie villains, forbidding her to marry her beloved, but they didn't understand why she still planned to say "I do." It seemed crazy to them, which made it seem crazy to her.

"You married a man with a brain tumor," she wrote me. "Do you regret it? Would you do it again? Am I CRAZY for wanting to marry him still? Help me."

The short answer is: I did. Not for a moment. A million times, yes. You're not crazy. And, I can try.

The long answer is this:

Read more on Elle.com


I Got Micro-Bladed and Permanently Said Goodbye to my '90s Brows

by Nora McInerny

The only people who knew were every single person I encountered that day because I told everyone in earshot.


Say the words "face tattoo" and most people picture Mike Tyson, or perhaps Lil Wayne. Say the words "permanent makeup" and most people picture little old ladies in church with blue-black eyebrows that look like faded Sharpie drawings. Say "microblading" and people...have no idea what you're talking about, even though you're talking about the lovechild of face tattoos and permanent makeup. It sounds crazy and stupid and impulsive and too good to be true. Which is exactly why I did it.

Like many of us in our early-to-mid-thirties, my eyebrows have been recovering from a beating they took in the late '90s, when a pencil-thin Christina Aguilera brow was the epitome of sophistication and modern beauty (at least to this Minnesota girl). Hair on our faces? No thanks! My friends and I spent hours ripping these tiny hairs from above our eyes. We had no idea what a huge mistake we were making, even as we wore our mistakes to school. One girl in my class unintentionally shaved her eyebrows into what can only described as an upside-down Nike logo. Another showed up to a dance with a right brow that had been reduced to a small, horizontal line just above the middle of her eyeball. She'd tried to even it out, she explained, and took it too far. Was it noticeable, she wondered? Only if you looked at her face

Read more on Elle.com

Photo by Kylee Leonetti

How I Accidentally Convinced 100 Strangers to Get Matching Tattoos. Great Women Think Alike.

by Nora McInerny

Great women think alike.


Today, I woke up with a Mitch McConnell quote tattooed on my forearm. That is not a sentence I ever imagined writing, but so far, 2017 has been full of sentences we never thought we’d write and situations we never thought we’d see.

When Senator McConnell said, “Nevertheless, she persisted,” he didn’t exactly mean it as a compliment to Senator Elizabeth Warren. Republicans had used a really old rule to stop Warren from reading a letter by Coretta Scott King during the debate over the nomination of Jeff Sessions to Attorney General, and McConnell defended the silencing of Warren. He surely did not mean the phrase to have the effect that it did: echoing through social media as a rallying cry for women, finding its way onto Tshirts and mugs and eventually, my skin.

Read more on Cosmopolitan.com

Photo by Kylee Leonetti

The New Generation of Breast Pump Might Not Actually Suck

by Nora McInerny

And it looks like a pretty lil' round thing that could disguise itself as a smart home device with an unclear purpose.


I chose to breastfeed primarily because I knew in my heart it was the best for my baby. Just kidding, I breastfeed because I'm lazy. Mixing a bottle in the middle of the night is far harder than just rolling over and lifting up my shirt. I'm a person who has been known to forget the diaper bag, even when the diaper bag is just my purse with diapers shoved into it. But I can't forget my boobs.

As a mother whose infant son recently needed to borrow a dress from another baby at mommy and me yoga when he pooped through his clothes and I hadn't packed an extra outfit, I am clearly the perfect person to test a very fancy and expensive breast pump clearly designed for women who are used to the finer things in life. The Medela Sonata, new to the market, bills itself as a smart breast pump that tracks your pumping sessions and your baby's growth with the help of a custom app and some Bluetooth magic.


Read more on Elle.com

Why I Quit Everything and Started a New Life After My Husband and Father Died

by Nora McInerny

Quitting is the most important thing you'll ever do.


This is not a story about how I quit my job to travel the world and scrub toilets in paradise, and how I’ve never been happier and our cubicles are coffins and you deserve an unconventional life that brings you bliss.

This is a story about a girl named Lucky. Just kidding, but now that Britney song will be in your head all day.

Like nearly all of us, I was not raised to be a quitter. Quitting was probably the worst thing you could do, according to most motivational posters hanging in our gym locker rooms. Quitters never win. Winners never quit!

Read more on Cosmopolitan.com


by Nora McInerny

If you don't post your pregnancy on Instagram did it even happen?

A few weeks ago I spoke at an event in front of about 100 people where I talked about some formative experiences in my life. How in 2014 I miscarried my second child. How my dad died 5 days later. How my husband died six weeks after that. The point of my talk was about owning your own story, not letting other people define you by what they think your life is like. When it was over, everyone clapped and there was time for Q&A. A woman's hand shot up.

She wanted to know if I was pregnant.

Silence filled the room, and like I was Angelina Jolie or something, I just said, "next question."

I could say a lot of things about this. Like, how I know it was asked from a good place but why are women asked that? Like, if you wanna tell 100 strangers, you tell 100 strangers! Or the irony of having a stranger demand a story about me when I'd just talked for an hour about personal narrative.

Instead, I will tell you that I was indeed pregnant with a baby I would have a few weeks later and I didn't want to talk about it with 100 strangers or even 100 of my own friends.

I didn't want to talk about it with anyone.

Read more on Elle.com

We Live On the Internet. We Die Alone.

by Nora McInerny

A good way to become very popular is to be on your deathbed. Everyone wants to stop by, drop off a casserole (I’m in the Midwest), say the deep and meaningful things they always meant to say, have a poignant moment, a cinematic hand squeeze.

A deathbed is really not the time for that, though. If you’re worried about making sure people know how you feel, go ahead and do that right now. This can wait. But once Aaron was admitted to hospice care at age 35 our phones kept dinging and buzzing and lighting up with messages from long-absent friends and long-lost family near and far who suddenly and urgently needed to be a part of my husband’s death.

At first, I tried to be a good messenger.

“Aaron,” I whispered to him after my phone lit up with an offer for a casserole from a couple we’d last seen 18 months before, “the so-and-so’s want to stop by to see you. What do you think?”

Read more on Time.com

Getting an Epidural Does Not Mean I Failed at Giving Birth

by Nora McInerny

A baby grew inside me and then came out, and if you try to tell me it wasn't natural, well, I wish you well on your path of righteous judgment.


I was always going to be a cool mom.

Not the Amy Poehler in Mean Girls kind of mom, although yes, I would wear that Juicy tracksuit. The kind of mom who just goes with the flow. Who doesn't fret over nap times and baby vitamins, over milestones or sleepless nights. The kind of mom who isn't always complaining about the brutalities of motherhood while also captioning all of her Instagram photos #blessed (you know who you are).

I started my Cool Mom quest before I was even a mom, when my son Ralph was a tadpole growing in my stomach and my husband and I were being bombarded with questions from friends, family and brochures that showed up in our mailboxes. Where would we give birth (um, a hospital??). Who would be our care provider (uhhhh, a medical professional?). What was our birth plan (hold on, let me Google that).

A birth plan, as it turns out, is exactly what you think it is: a plan for an uncontrollable natural experience, meant to provide a sense of the atmosphere you'd like as you welcome into the world the small human who is bursting forth from your vagina. Areas of interest in your birth plan include:

Read more on Elle.com


Please Don’t Ask Me to Put Down My Phone

by Nora McInerny

It’s a time machine to a place where my husband is still alive.


“Wherever you go, there you are.” My father quoted the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the famous mindfulness advocate, to me my entire life.

He said this whenever I wanted to run away from something that was too hard: the varsity basketball team, where I spent a significant amount of time on the bench, avoiding eye contact with my coach and hoping not to have to break a sweat; my Latin class in college, where I struggled with conjugations and pronunciation; a boss who once told me to be “less myself” at work.

My father—and I can say this because he’s dead and won’t read this and get all bent out of shape—was wrong. Wherever I go, I’m wherever I’d rather be. I’m a modern-day time traveler; the constraints of time and space do not apply to me.

Read more at Slate.com

How Working Out Taught Me To Embrace The Struggle

by Nora McInerny

It wasn’t until my husband was diagnosed with cancer that I started to take my fitness seriously.


Like most children raised in the ’80s and ’90s, I was awarded for nearly everything I did — things that were not particularly accomplishments, like completing my elementary school’s field day, or showing up for a swim meet. Most of those shiny PARTICIPANT ribbons eventually made their way into a landfill, but there’s a collection of plaques and trophies that have nestled into every bookshelf I’ve ever owned.

“NORA MCINERNY, MOST IMPROVED,” they proclaim in all caps, telling the world that while I was never the very best at basketball, or volleyball, or golf, or really any athletic endeavor of any kind, I at least got better at it.

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