Adventures in Stock Photography

In the last year or so I’ve been doing a lot of freelance writing. For 90% of the articles I write I’m also charged with finding an image to go with it. For some slideshow style pieces, I’ve had to find as many as 25 images for one story. This has resulted in me spending A LOT of time looking at stock photography sites.

Now, my biggest complaint about stock photography is that it is often cheesy and super posed and fake looking when I’m looking for something more natural (my guiding question when chosing an image is often something like “have I ever, in real life, seen this many people smiling so cheerfully at a business meeting? Does the air of carefully crafted diversity infused productivity seem legit or like they are all on mood stabilizers?”). This is a prime example:


But then there are other pictures where I find myself trying to imagine how they came to be.

1 Photographer #1: Hey, do we have an adorable gap tooth kid to pose with a totally normal looking school lunch?

Photographer #2: You bet!

Photographer #1: Is the lunch filled with healthy stuff, but like, just thrown in the lunch box? Nothing wrapped up, I hope.

Photographer #2: Loose celery and carrot sticks? Of course. And three pieces of fruit. And a bunch of radishes. Kids are crazy for radishes.

Photographer #1: Obviously.

I also feel like I have to address the fact that if you do a stock image photo for the phrase “pregnant woman eating” you get this:

321I don’t know about the rest of you, but I FOR SURE spent most of my pregnancies thinking about the most effective way I could give myself more gas. Every day, I would put on my white crop top and head to the fridge, where I would not-at-all look like an insane robot standing in front of my fridge, which contained nothing but alarming fresh produce. I’d smile, in a totally natural way, while making myself a huge salad with no dressing. The more broccoli the better, I’d think, listening happily to the sound of farts like machine gun fire ripping out of my ass.

And then there are the pictures where I struggle to understand why they are tagged the way they are. For example:

I search for “feminism” and I get 1,000 images of Rosie the Riveter and then this one:

1Because feminists love (or hate?) mustaches?

Or I search for “hot guy” and find this kindly gentleman:

1He is in a sweater, scarf and hat. I don’t think he is hot in really any sense of the word.

I looked for “kids halloween candy”. This is clearly what I had in mind:

1I have long since learned that any searches involving looking for plus sized women is sure to anger, confuse, or sadden me.

Exhabit A: found while searching “average looking plus sized woman”

1Yep. Just your regular old size 18 Target shopper there, amiright?

I won’t even talk about the horror show that is looking for photos of not-skinny women exercising, except to say that if you belong to gym that just leaves hamburgers laying around on the floor, maybe switch gyms?

1I would comment on the shit show that is stock photos of motherhood, but I can’t compete with the brilliance of It’s Like They Know Us so I won’t even try.

Occasionally I have an article on a saucier topic, which is how I came to be searching through stock photos using the term “threesome”. I think we can all agree that these images capture the sexual energy of a three people engaged in hot, hot sex, right?

1 2 3I like to imagine the guys in the last picture are just finalizing the details of their forthcoming tryst: “Okay, so it is agreed that Carl will be the bottom. Thanks Carl!”

I would share more but I have to go find some pictures related to a “happy marriage”. I’m sure those will be amazing. And totally realistic. Just like this one:

1“Look at it Marge! I put the vegetables in the pan. Have you ever been so tickled in all your life?”

“Oh Roger, you are just a hoot. A HOOT.”

Good Advice

The other night I had a strong sudden urge to cut me own hair. I mentioned this urge on Facebook and instantly got 15+ responses that said, basically, “Noooo! Don’t do it! That way madness and tears lie!”

That is good advice. Hair cutting is something that it probably best left to the professionals.

And yet…


I’m not sure why it sometimes feels so satisfying to do something dramatic to my own hair, even though it has not worked so well for me in the past (see the black hair dye incident of 1999). But at 11pm, with my hair pulled back in yet another ponytail, the thought of a short bob, with my neck exposed, seemed like the perfect solution to a moment of feeling blah.

The bad news is that there is a definite short spot in the back. The good news is that I don’t really care. I live in Minnesota, so I figure I’ll be wearing hats and scarves soon enough anyways.

Listening to Tonight

I am buried in writing that I need to do, either for financial/deadline or academic purposes. I’m tired and I’d like to go to my cozy bed, next to my cozy husband but I keep feeling like if I can write for 15 more minutes I’ll be able to breath a little easier tomorrow.

I’m also sore from a weekend that was more fun than I’ve had in a long time. I drank a little too much and danced for hours at an event dubbed “mom prom” (me and 97 other women, no kids, no men except the DJ and the bartenders). My sides are literally sore from laughing and my knees are angry about how much 90s hip-hop music (50% of the DJ’s playlist) instructs one to “jump around”.

These are lucky problems to have, I suppose. So I’ll do 15 more minutes.

And I’ll type type type and listen to some fantastic new music.

Happy Monday.

Joyfully Terrible


When I’m in ballet class, sometimes I forget that I’m probably the only one there wearing size 11 ballet shoes and a plus sized leotard. I forget that I’ll never be good at ballet. I watch myself in the mirror and I forget that I’m supposed to be embarrassed about the size of my thighs.

I forget these things because after year (YEARS) of being too afraid to try things that I’m not good at, I’ve finally gotten (mostly) over myself and have decided that the sole criteria I’m going to use to determine if I get to do something is not “am I good enough to do this” but “will doing this thing, even poorly, make me happy?”

I have one child who appears to have inherited my tendency toward perfectionism and it is hard to watch him get so frustrated with himself when his drawing doesn’t look the way he wants it to or if he misses a shot at soccer. It feels so familiar to me and it makes me want to figure out how to teach him to let himself off the hook and to embrace the freedom that comes from deciding to do what you love whether you are good at it or not.

It took me a few decades to get there. I hope he can find his way there sooner.


Let’s Talk Fashion

As an avid magazine reader, I am aware that September is the big month for fashion. There is New York Fashion Week and launching of the fall/winter lines for all the big fashion labels. As an avid wearer of things from Target, this is how I imagine the design process goes for these looks, all of which were labelled as a “best look of the fall” by at least one major fashion magazine.


Designer #1: I want an outfit that looks like sadness feels

Designer #2: DONE!



Designer #1: I want to make a shirt
Designer #2: Ooh, how about a short sleeve sweater shirt.
Designer #1: Great idea, would poop brown be a good color?
Designer #2: Of course! But only if you make it look like the person wearing it has really small, sad boobs
Designer #1: Sad, small and SAGGING boobs?
Designer #2: Brilliant!
Designer #1: And I’ll charge $600 for it!
Designer #2: Of course you will! Fashion!
Designer #1: Don’t worry, I’ll make sure the model looks appropriately thrilled about the whole thing.



Designer #1: Hey, did you see the Minion movie this summer?

Designer #2: Yeah, my kids loved it! Why do you ask?

Designer #1: No reason



Designer #1: You know what looks awesome?

Designer #2: Old man pajamas?

Designer #1: Oh my God, totally!

Designer #2: But what if we could make them sluttier? And then act like it would be totally a normal thing to do to wear them in public?

Designer #1: DONE



Designer #1: You know what the problem is with most saris?

Designer #2: Not enough side-boob?

Designer #1: You just, you just really GET me.

Designer #2: I know what you mean. I assume you also think mullets are awesome then too, right?

Designer #1: Obviously



Designer #1: Most women wish they were bigger around the middle, right?

Designer #2: Certainly. Big demand for the reverse hourglass shape.



Designer #1: Hey. have you seen that scrap of white fabric I had laying around? The one that looks like an unfinished table cloth?

Designer #2: You mean that awesome skirt I found?

Designer #1: Um, sure.



Designer #1: Pss, wanna play a game?

Designer #2: I love games!

Designer #1: I call it “Does she have legs?”

Designer #2: Fun!

Designer #1: I was totally inspired by the couch in my grandma’s basement.


Dear Lover

My Love,

I hope that you know that I can’t live without you. I know that sometimes I take you for granted, that I don’t often stop to thank you for all you do, that sometimes I even seem to ignore you.

But I see you. I feel you. I need you.

It is true that sometimes I wish for more. Sometimes I want what other people have instead. I want you to blow my hair back. I want goosebumps again. But at the end of another hot day, as I climb into bed in the stuff attic bedroom wear only a tank top and a pair of knickers, I know you are there and I am so grateful.

Oh my window unit air conditioner…I promise to be true to you until the end (of summer) and to never lose you (until we can afford a central air system).

Keep on blowing that 67 degree air on me, baby.

Staying cool,

Conversations: 7 year old edition

(Context: He had just finished reading a book about the Nazi invasion)

“Mom, can I say a swear word about Hitler? Just once?”


“Hitler was STUPID”

“I think he was even worse than stupid. He was evil.”

“I’m going to say a double swear, okay? Hitler was SHUT UP STUPID!”


(A friend of mine happened to be in Germany this week and visited Dachau Concentration Camp. She took a message from Miles there.)


M: “I’m probably going to be the best American Ninja Warrior when I grow up.”
Me: “Yeah? You’ll have to train really hard.”

M:”Well, I already have strong muscles for a 7 year old and I’ve watched pretty much every episode so I know exactly what to do. Not like Evelyn. She doesn’t even know.”

Ev: “I do know. I do!”

M: “No offense, Evelyn, but I am smarter than you.”

Me: “Miles, that was rude…”

M: “I said NO OFFENSE. So it can’t be rude.”

Me: “Yeah, that isn’t how that works.”


“Mom, do you know why toots are funny?”

“Why do you think?”

“Because it is your BUTT making noise. That is so funny. BUTT talking!”


“”Hey, Mama? Do you want to smell my butt?”
“Ew, no. Don’t be rude.”
“Sorry. PLEASE Mama, do you want to smell my BOTTOM?”


“Wait, Mama? One last question before you tuck me in. When I get married, how will I get my wife pregnant, exactly?”

(insert clear, factual, non-embarrassed description of the process)
“So, the penis goes inside the vagina and then the vagina is like an extra toilet?”

Err…not quite.


“Mom, I love you.”

“I love you too, sweetie. You are my best guy.”

“Someday I’ll probably live in another house, but you can come over every day”

“Oh, that is nice. I’d like to see you every day.”

“Yeah, and you can make sure my wife knows I like fish sticks and pizza and having dessert every day. You’ll tell her all that, right?”

“Um, sure. Or you could tell her what you like.”

(Sighs deeply) “I’m not sure if she’ll listen to me…”


On a related note, this kid still has a full week before he goes back to school. He is ready, my husband is ready, c’mon on Labor Day weekend, let’s get this show on the road.

Solo Hotel Time

Due to the nature of my job, I can usually expect at least one brief out of town trip per month. Also due to the nature of my job, these trips are not to exotic or touristy destinations so my overnight accomodations generally involve being in a chain hotel in a town of 10,000 people or less.

(Last night: Country Inn and Suites, Bemidji,Minnesota)

So, although I miss my little family while I am gone and I’m not exactly whooping it up in a swank location, I can’t deny that there are some pleasures to be found in the solo hotel experience.

First, there is the temperature. I am part polar bear and I LOVE a nice cold room to sleep in. At home, we keep the AC on 72 in our bedroom at night. As soon as I got into my room, I turned the thermostat down to a nice brisk 66 degrees. My dear husband’s teeth would be chattering but I slept like a BOSS.

Second, there is eating in bed. At home, we don’t have a TV in our bedroom and, even if we did, I would not likely eat dinner there. But in the hotel, I am happy to curl up under the covers and eat my burrito bowl in bed while watching Bravo. I’m not sure what is better: not having to share my guacamole with anyone or knowing that if I spill I can just move over to the other queen sized bed and sleep there.

Third, the blissful privacy. Nobody asks to sit on your lap when you are peeing at the hotel. Living the dream here, people. Living. The. Dream.

The downside of hotel time is that it makes me remember how much fun it was to stay in hotels with my husband, before we had the little monkeys. Hotel sexy times + sleeping in + traveling? Sigh, those were some good times. At least we only have 15 years to go before we can do it again.

Well, crap, now I’ve depressed myself.

I should probably get back under the covers and self-medicate with a crappy reality show while eating candy in sheets that I don’t have to watch.

Ahh, that is the stuff.

Small Things

I am wearing a matching bra and unders set today and I swear my boobs look 37% perkier than usual. I really only have one matching set (insert lament here about the pains of finding bras when your size is in the back half of the alphabet…) but I do wonder why I don’t make more of an effort to find more sets given how damn cute I think I am when I’m wearing one.

I’m cute to the point where I might just have texted a female friend a cleavage shot so she could admire the adorableness of my bra.

It is probably a good thing that basically all of my friends are women.

Stupid Expensive

I was walking to a coffee shop in my neighborhood last night when I passed a picture framing shop. I stopped for a moment to admire a particularly pretty frame in the window and thought briefly about a piece of art work that I’ve been meaning to get framed for roughly three years now.

I love the picture and I’d love to better display it in our house but every time I think about framing it, I remember again how crazy stupid expensive framing is. The painting I’d like to frame is on the larger side and the estimates are well into the hundreds of dollars, even with the ubiquitous Michael’s coupons that are always floating around.

The thing that always gets me about the cost of framing is that I just don’t understand why it is so expensive. It seems like such a basic thing: please put four pieces of wood around this thing, thank you. How is that $475?

There are other things like this, of course, things that the cost of is always an unpleasant surprise, even though it shouldn’t be. I’m always taken aback by dental bills (why, oh  why, does all dental insurance suck?). I feel deeply annoyed by the cost of practical household goods like batteries and cleaning supplies. I’m not a wine drinker so when I go to purchase wine to take to a party I’m always briefly shocked at how expensive wine is, even the cheapest stuff. Don’t people know that you can buy Diet Coke for far less money?

Perhaps these things seem outrageously expensive to me because I just don’t value them enough. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between a $4 or $40 bottle of wine. I can’t tell a custom frame from a Target clearance rack frame. This makes me curious: what kinds of things are on your “this is stupidly and surprisingly expensive” list?