kids

Everyone Loves a Weirdo, and Other Things I Learned at BlogJam

A couple nights ago, I got an email from my son’s first-grade teacher, telling me she had chosen Max to speak at the Thanksgiving assembly. We told Max the news, half calm (because it was just a couple lines, not a TedX speech), and half excited (because this was one step closer to our retirement on the coattails of our son, the great orator). After a couple minutes, Max’s pride turned to dread and he started to cry. “I don’t want to do it,” he said. “Not in front of all those people.”

MOMMY TO THE RESCUE.

“Guess what? When Mommy was a little girl, I was afraid to speak in front of people too. But this weekend, in Halifax, I spoke in front of, like, a hundred people!”

“Mom. There’s way more than a hundred people at my school.”

PHOOEY.

It’s true though. There was a time when I hated public speaking. I was only comfortable talking to my invisible friend, Colin. Colin always got me. He didn’t judge me for making out with my knees in the bathtub. I still get nervous before I approach the microphone; I don’t fully trust anyone who doesn’t. But nowadays, I enjoy a little limelight. And — I can’t even believe I’m saying this — there’s never enough people in the room. The way I see it — if I’ve done all the prep and my speech is solid and my hair looks good and I don’t have diarrhea, the room may as well be packed. Sorry, Colin, I’ve grown.

I like a packed room — just one of the things I learned about myself this weekend at BlogJam in Halifax, the first ever bloggers’ conference in Atlantic Canada, at the schnazzy Marriott Hotel on the waterfront. ‘Twas a full day of speakers on all things blog, from widgets to Wordpress, from how to find your voice to how to find the clitoris (I’m paraphrasing.) I was one of the keynote speakers, starting off the day with a bang (and a few fucks), at 9am on a Sunday. Like ya would.

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That’s me waaaaaaaay up there.

Here’s a close-up on my opening slide. I’ll post the whole presentation soon, I swear. It will probably change your life. Or at least your night. Okay, your underwear. It will at least make you change your underwear.

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There were sessions happening at the same time all day, so I had to quickly decide which ones to attend, and which ones to slip out of in order to go check on my widdle durl who was locked in a safe in my hotel room upstairs. Relax. It’s a SAFE.

Just kidding. I actually dropped her off at the orphanage.

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It’s a hard knock life.

Here are a few other things I learned at BlogJam:

1. There are a lot of bloggers in this region. According to fake statistics, only 10% of bloggers come forward to attend bloggers’ conferences.

2. It’s a warm, inviting blogging community we have here in Atlantic Canada. Not cold and damp like the basements we usually blog from. No wait, those are video gamers. Nevermind. We’re way cooler than those losers.

3. Newfoundlanders are wicked storytellers, so where are all the bloggers? I know of a few serious Newf playas in the blogosphere, like Candice Walsh and her kickass travel blog Free Candie (fancy new website alert!), Dave Sullivan and his Narcissist’s Revenge, and Drew Brown, the pride of Grand Falls-Windsor, who blogs for VICE and makes me hate politics a little less every day. Maybe they’ll come get some jam next year. Maybe they’ll bring Jam-Jams.

4. I like to write, but not as much as I like to entertain. You know, with my face. I think maybe I’d like to be a stand-up comedian when I grow up. Or maybe a lie-down comedian. I could just lie down in a bed on stage and make jokes while writhing around like misses in American Beauty, but with potato chips covering my girly bits instead of rose petals. Or maybe I’ll be a fireman.

5. “BlogJam” sounds like “log jam” which is what you call it when your poop is too big to flush so it jams up your toilet. I didn’t learn this at BlogJam. I just wanted to put it in here because it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want, bitch.

6. I enjoy saying bitch and I will keep saying it. Guys. We are taking back the word bitch.

7. The tools are no good if the writing is no good. You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway (he’d be a shit blogger anyway), but content is king. A fancy website with wicked widgets and plugins and graphics can bring the horse to water, but give dat dere horsey some decent water to drink, luh. That analogy makes no sense whatsoever but I don’t give a fuck, Rae just shit herself in the bathtub, I got bigger problems.

8. That being said, some sweet graphics can go a long way. Look at my slideshow (COMING SOON SWEAR TO GOD), designed by the whimsical Mira Howards. If you’re a blogger with good content looking to take things up a notch, find yourself a young (or old — it’s possible) graphic web designer or WordPress whiz who’d be willing to give you a good rate (because you’re probably poor), to make your site look a little more sparkly-boo.

9. Don’t get caught up in the numbers and likes and comments. It’s all about engagement. I rarely get any comments on my blog, but I get lots of feedback on my social media channels where I share my stuff. I may be married, but I am engaged to a whole bunch of other people. ME DA WHORE.

10. People don’t mind when you say fuck a lot, if there’s a point. Points can have more impact when there’s a fuck in there. There will always be some people who’d prefer you say fudge, but there are also some people who prefer to walk around with shit in their pants. Everyone is different. You can’t please everybody. Carry on.

11. Food bloggers are sharp as fuck. I wish I had a food blogger friend like this “food nerd” who would take me to restaurants and teach me the difference between a garbanzo bean and a chickpea. JOKE PAUSE!

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12. Not every blog SHOULD be a book, but every blog COULD be a book, so if you think you got a book in you (ouch, paper cuts) then go for it and see what happens. There are still seven or eight people in the world who buy paperbacks. Publishing is a hard ol’ racket, but even if you self-publish and sell 20 copies, YOU WROTE A FUCKING BOOK, MAN. Give ‘er.

13. Some awesome bitches put the ABLE in disabled.

14. The Fucking Facts is a brilliant blog name. I’m going to steal it from Kaleigh Trace when she’s off giving one of her blowjob workshops.

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Murphy, Downs and Trace. We go by our last names now, like MacGyver

15. Moms control the economy and therefore rule the big ass world with our big fat juicy asses. You need us on your team if you’re going to win. For reals.

16. Some people are very kind and smile a lot. I like those people. They make me want to be less of a bitch face. Adam Purcell sponsored my voyage across the Gulf when other corporate sponsors said they had spent all their money on Post-It Notes. BlogJam creator Renee Downs is a beaming golden sun with rainbows for legs.

17. A blog can suffer growing pains, change direction, evolve. A blog is flexible. A blog is Play Doh.

18. It’s okay to be a woman and all about the money. I wouldn’t mind being this woman. Her name is Debbie but I like to call her CHA-CHING.

19. When it comes to privacy, you make the rules. Use your instincts. (Unless your instincts are shit, then ask someone else with better instincts for advice. Hopefully your instincts are good enough to know when your instincts are shit.)

20. If you want to talk about your kids on the Internet but don’t want people to know their names or faces, just stick some Star Wars heads on them and call ’em Chewy and Vader. That way, instead of stalking your little Dick and Jane or Jack and Jill, people will just become obsessed with finding out what Chewy and Vader really look like. I’ve been trolling for Mike Tanner‘s kids for three days straight now.

21. You can have five Christmas trees and wear pearls and a cardigan and a barrette and still be a fucking ninja. I already knew this, but Virginia Fynes reminded me.

22. Virginia Fynes is the perfect name for a DIY craft blogger. Be such a terrible shame if her name were Ulga Buggerboot.

23. There are many, many technical things I could learn to improve my blogging product but probably won’t because I am a sloth. Oh look, a raisin in my clavicle, mmmmm.

24. It’s okay to laugh about anxiety, and hemorrhoids.

25. Men’s rights bloggers only show up online, I guess. Probably for the best.

26. Do you feel that? It’s vagina time. It’s girl o’clock. Avocados were all the rage these last couple of years, but now it’s time for the ladies. Like this hilarious frigger, this amazing mutha, this smarty pants, and this rad missus right here. There are many, many others. And they all have tits!

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27. It’s genius to open with a potty mouth mom and close with a (self-described) queer disabled sex educator. People will show up on time and stay till the end. Loves the weirdos, they do.

28. Eating juicy Nova Scotia strawberries on a white duvet with a baby who still uses her pants as a toilet is probably not the best idea. But twat odds, Batman.

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29. If you’re taking your tot away on a conference when The Wiggles are in town, make sure she doesn’t find out about it.

DA FUCK, MOM?!
DA FUCK, MOM?!

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In Love With My In-Laws

In case you were getting your moustache bleached when the July edition of The Overcast hit shelves…

You know two of the things I love most about my husband? His jiggleberries. Just kidding. HIS PARENTS.

It’s unusual, I know. Most people hate their in-laws. Hating your in-laws is as universal as hating root canals, autocorrect, and Nickelback. I guess when you swoop into someone else’s nest and make off with one of their flock, it can ruffle a few feathers. The new bird is always strange, and the nest is always cuckoo. (Sorry, everyone hates bird analogies too.) Personally, this lucky duck wouldn’t know much about it because I hit the jackpot in the in-law department.

I have friends who detest their “outlaws.” When they tell me about the latest assault on their parenting or housekeeping methods, I say “Why, I never!” Then my sympathy switches to gratitude for my own good fortune and I shout, “Sucks to be you! My in-laws are fantastic!” Then they throw rocks at me.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about anything five years ago when Dad died. I wondered how any of it – having kids, getting published – would matter when he wasn’t here to see it. But it seems the void loss creates can be occupied by other good things if you let it. I broke the rules and filled in the dad-shaped space – with someone else’s father.

When I met Wayne Murphy more than a decade ago, one of the first things I noticed about him was his eyebrows – thick, black, severe looking, like an angry Muppet’s. But I quickly discovered those brows were actually wooly canopies shielding the world’s brightest smile from the elements. If this guy was a Muppet, he was Tickle-Me-Elmo.

When we visit, Wayne is out in the driveway before I’ve shut off the engine – to carry his baby granddaughter in from the car. He plays with Rae so much, I can scarcely get my hands on her when we’re there. His sandwich sits there, uneaten, because he’s too busy playing peekaboo. Sometimes he’s so moved by her funny faces and sweet babble, tears well up in his eyes. He says, “She’s so cute, it hurts.”

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Wayne and I also share a special bond, one largely based on naughty jokes – a sentiment I’ve generously brought into the family, to my husband’s amusement and horror (mostly horror).

I feel bad sometimes because I get to enjoy him more than most of his own crowd. And when I say crowd, I mean CROWD. Wayne and Rosena have seven children and ten grandchildren. But only two and four of them, respectively, live here in the province. Work and commitments keep the others away, but their hearts are home in Mount Pearl, where they used to pile into the car to go for a drive and fight for the coveted spot in the front seat between their folks, where breathing was possible.

A couple years back, I made Wayne a Father’s Day card that read: “My dad is dead but I reckon you’re a pretty good substitute.” (My humour can be dark.) Nobody can replace my father. Jim Combden was something else and I’ll think of him every day for as long as I live. But I won’t spend so much time remembering him that I forget to see the souls still above the sod. Apparently recognition doesn’t matter much to anyone once they’re tits-up. The world is full of love that goes unspoken.

My dad would be glad. He was grateful that I was a part of the humble Murphy brood, where the kettle is always on for me, where I still speak of him often. He knew I was in good hands, with the family I had and the one I had married into. Of course, blood is thicker and all that. But I’ve told Wayne and Rosena: if things don’t work out with me and Andrew – he’s out, I’m in.

Tomorrow, I’ll be helping my father-in-law celebrate his 70th birthday. And the very next day, I’ll be celebrating my father’s memory at the 6th annual Jimmy Golf Tournament for the Gander Cancer Clinic.

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