Archive for the ‘Kat Ward’ Tag

Thoughts, This Holiday   4 comments

tumblr_mez5euB3zY1s0r8eto1_500This holiday season, I am reminded even more of the importance of exercising compassion and empathy.

I shouldn’t have to be homeless to imagine the bitterness of winter temperatures for those who have no roof over their heads and no bed with fluffy pillows and a down comforter to keep them warm at night. I don’t have to miss meals to feel the nausea, lethargy, and distraction from not having enough nourishment in my belly.

I don’t have to experience the anxiety of pulling out a bank receipt that shows a balance that won’t (in any stretch of the imagination) be enough to cover the monthly bills, or worse, seeing a negative balance to sympathize with those who are unemployed or still struggling in the current economy. I shouldn’t have to experience cancer to empathize with someone who’s going through chemo and radiation therapy.

I don’t have to care for an elderly parent, say goodbye to a friend struck down by disease, or bury a murdered child to have my heart break, or to reach out to comfort, hug, hold, and support a family member, a friend, or a stranger who has lost someone essential to their lives.

For Americans, our season of officially giving thanks begins on the third Thursday of November, Thanksgiving. Oftentimes, with the stress of planning and preparing feasts; purchasing gifts or stressing about finding extra money to purchase gifts or going without gifts; end-of-the-year additional work and subsequently extra hours at our jobs; attending holiday school performances, work parties and social get-togethers; dealing with family dynamics or having no family at all—it can be difficult to remember that this is a time for giving.

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This season, I am reminding myself to give—with consciousness and clarity, discharging my stresses and anxieties (even if temporarily), so that I may give freely and openly, without judgment or expectation.

When a friend’s stress is overwhelming, I tell myself, ‘Cut your errands short and lend an ear, turn off your phone, and pull your sleeve down over your watch face.’

Painting by Lisa Monica Nelson

Painting by Lisa Monica Nelson

When my eyes sting because they’re so tired and all I want is to get that next load of damn laundry folded and the dishes cleaned before I call it a day, and my child calls for…me, I let the laundry wait and leave the never-ending chores to remain undone a bit while longer. I go to my daughter, curl up in the bed with her, and release the day from my mind so that the only world of which I’m aware is the child right in front of me.

When a wee tiny wisp of an elderly woman spends 20 minutes mailing a package while the line at the post office extends past the door and down the steps, I tell the person in front of me that I like her intriguing coat and then we move on to how we will be spending our holidays and to whom we are mailing our packages. Finally, I simply wait my turn, mentally sending good wishes to the old woman with her cane, her hand shaking as she writes her check, her lips quivering as she tries to get her words out, and know that I, too (with luck), shall reach her age and deal with the consequences of old, old age.

This season, I remind myself to take that unwrapped gift to the local firehouse, take the end-of-the-day extra baked goods from my favorite bakery and drop it off at the food bank, and prepare to hand out lunch bags of turkey sandwiches, cucumber wedges and holiday cookies to my neighborhood homeless like my daughter, ex-husband and I used to do when we lived in Hollywood. Show people, tell them, ‘You are not alone; I see you.’

father-and-son-175x233Sometimes, the whys and wherefores don’t matter, the old baggage, the open wounds. Sometimes I need to push myself past what grips me in hurt and pick up the phone, call an estranged sibling and say, simply, “I love you.” Issues don’t magically disappear, but the freely offered sentiment can open a way forward, even if just for that moment.

The odds are, if we all give, then we shall all receive.

Give with a free, loving heart, and receive in the same way. I remind myself that when someone brings me an unexpected gift—a tin of holiday cookies, a card, a phone call, or even a hug—to receive that gift with a thankfulness that seeps throughout my every inch. Don’t flick it aside with, “Oh, you shouldn’t have,” or “But, I didn’t get you anything.” Welcome his gift and his thoughtfulness. Let it fill and soothe, nurture and replenish.

We need the love and compassion of others, especially when tragedy hits so close to the holidays. Let’s not shy away from it, from the pain and loss, but embrace each other and help each other stand up. We are only alone if no one reaches out, if no one offers a hand…or if the offered hand is not taken.

Let this holiday season be a time of selfless giving, true compassion and empathy, honest love and kindness, and altruistic benevolence.

Let our humanity excel and radiate—in the way we give and receive, share and comfort, support and love our children, family, friends, and neighbors, as well as our beloved towns, cities, country…and our precious world.

Every stranger is a potential friend.

Open your heart.

Love is essential.

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Copyright © Kat Ward, 2012 at Hometown-Pasadena.com

Mind Numbing Days – Ebook Formatting   8 comments

I think my ankles are swollen—probably because I haven’t stood up in five hours—calves are a bit sore, thighs a bit numb.

But—Oye Vey & Hallelujah—I’ve managed to upload my first novel Amy’s Own as an ebook on Smashwords.

I began 6 days ago by printing out their 75-page style guide because I best absorb information holding something tangible (printed material) and while sitting and reading out in my petite patio.

Note: the guide states that some people can format and upload their manuscripts in 2 hours. I understood immediately that I would not be a member of the “some” club.

It was evening in lovely South Pasadena, California. I turned on the Christmas lights that are tacked to the worn wood enclosing my patio and gave a nod to my Chinese warrior statue (an imitation of the famous Terracotta Army) that I use in place of a buddha. I sat in my much-loved, soon-to-trash old camping chair, the material having stretched and aged to the point that the seat has lowered to the perfect height for my short (not petite) legs. I read the guide with my yellow highlighter sliding along line after line, page after page. When I went to bed around 2 a.m., I was semi-understanding the dumbed-down language for non-techie beings like me and felt as though I was making progress (though with my brain being so tired by this influx and overdose of new info, I couldn’t be quite sure).

Mind-numbing Day 2: I opted for the Nuclear Method (evaporating all previous formatting from a manuscript) from the get-go as I knew I had made simple indents and centered things via the icon on the Word doc and that was repeatedly, emphatically stated in the guide as a no-no-NO! I was forced to learn about paragraph styles in detail, hyperlinks, appropriate copyright and licensing statements, “front matter,” and the typography term pilcrow. A slight PITA, but I’m happy to know this now, since I’m typing up my new work Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations.

Mind-numbing Day 3: Downloading Adobe Digital Editions and going through the whole manuscript of Amy’s Own page by page, looking for mistakes. The hardest part was not going through the pages too quickly. I just wanted to glance and say, “That looks great! Moving on!” But I found a place where a line of dialogue jumped up to the line above. That screeched me to a halt, and I started looking at every single paragraph. I found three other times where the same thing happened (I’m assuming as a result of the Nuclear Method), so I’m glad I slowed down, even though I had to continually squash my impatience.

Mind-numbing Day 4: Bleary-eyed, stiff, and tired, I quadruple-checked everything out of absolutely heart pumping paranoid-anxious-doubtful-tense-amped up uncertainty. Then—with a deep breath, fingers crossed, swollen ankles crossed, and an excited flutter in my stomach—I clicked “publish.”

It may only be noon, but I hear a celebratory cocktail calling my name.

Note: Amy’s Own is free for download until July 13, 2012 at Smashwords. It’s a commercial drama with comedic and romantic elements. Visit Smashwords for a complete story description and access to multiple download formats. Feedback welcome (no holds barred!).

My Novel: Amy’s Own   14 comments

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Amy’s Own has been published! To see if you are intrigued by the story and like my style of writing, the first 3 chapters are available for sampling here.

Amy’s Own may be purchased as an ebook through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, and as an ibook through Apple’s iTunes. Print books may be purchased from Amazon or directly from the author.

To all who shell out the $2.99 for the ebook or splurge and spend $14.99 on a print copy, I say thank you, grazie mille, and l’chaim!

Please feel free to share you thoughts, comments, and criticisms. Leave a comment here or email katwardphoto(at)msn.com. I look forward to hearing from you…

~~~

17 March 2012:  It’s been a while. These past months, in addition to shooting headshots and writing for Hometown Pasadena (thank you, Colleen!), I have been immersed in helping organize a book festival for Pasadena, CA.

LitFest Pasadena was scheduled for today, Saturday, March 17th. I have time to sit in front of my computer because even though our winter has been quite dry, a weekend storm decided to dump a lake-full of rain and plunge the temperature into the low 50’s (way too cold for us thin-skinned Southern Californians!). We have postponed the event to May 12th as the Old Farmer’s Almanac states that rain has only fallen once in the last ten years on that day, and it won’t be too close to the massive, size-of-a-little-city event that’s called the L.A. Times Festival of Books, which is in April.

Fingers crossed for date #2.

The upside is that in having a deadline for LitFest, my partners and I at Lovely pubs, our new indie publishing company, have finished our first products.

Lori Bertazzon already has her Where Are You Stuck? self-help workbook that’s selling and going strong. Her husband, Kevin Bertazzon, in addition to ISMS: A Faery Mobster Story, now has his graphic novel Too Bubbly printed which looks amazing and is laugh-out-loud funny; and I have finally finished—and printed—my novel Amy’s Own.

A paperback copy is ready with your name on it!

Amy’s Own is $14 plus shipping, which runs $6. If you have any questions, you can email me at katwardphoto(at)msn(dot)com.

I’d like to make this post longer, but my brain is fried, and not in a tasty grilled cheese kind of way.

I’ve been having the time of my life finishing the book and working on LitFest, but it’s been heaps more work than I thought it would be, and this here almost 1/2 century ol’ body of cells is not what it once was. Time is a creepin’ and a sneekin’ up on meh! So, I’m hunkering down for the rest of the weekend in hopes of recouping some essential vigor. I’ll be in touch…

Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations – a novel excerpt   2 comments

Drifting Away by Aimi-chuu

An excerpt from the novel I’m currently writing about Samantha Stosur, a 13-year-old American girl living in the 3rd Millennium.

Can she feel the desperation in my eyes? But the annoyance, hurt and anger shooting out of hers immediately absorbs and dismisses whatever’s coming out of mine. She has squashed me without thinking.

Who is this being? She’s talking (I know it’s my mother), but the words are muffled like she’s on the other side of extra thick glass, even when she’s holding me. The rock-hard coating around me prevents me from feeling her. I know her hair is shiny because I can see it, but I can’t feel it under my fingers. This is what an anxiety attack feels like.

My tongue feels so swollen in my mouth that I think I can’t talk; the evening continues in silence.

What do you do when your tummy’s flipping like when Uncle Ross tosses flapjacks three feet into the air and they smack back down into the frying pan, only to be flipped again and again even though they’re crying out, “I’m done. I’m done!”

Is that what Mrs. Doweel feels, her tummy squirmy as she’s walking her fingers along each nub of her rosary beads? Or, does her direct line to Jesus (Hay-soos) bring her inner calm? Where’s my Haysoos when I need one? Uncle Ross ain’t playing that role. Melo may look the part, but he has too many voices in his head already to be able to make room to hear mine. Maybe Nancy could be the female version, be my La Haysoosita. But when she’s stoned, it’s like she’s trekking in some land and I don’t have the proper I.D.

I’m just afraid. I feel like I’m shivering from the inside out. No one can see anything, but I know I’m shaking uncontrollably. Rattling inside, like Mom’s car engine that started to knock around, faster and faster, getting louder and more ominous—until it stopped. Dead. Right in the middle of the highway that stretches from the Guadalupe Mountains to Santa Fe. One of the goddamnedest strips of road you ever saw; no structure of any kind in sight from horizon to horizon—and that includes straining to see any teensy-weensy sign of human life or dwelling while slowly, slowly turning in a complete circle. All this with the sun setting and darkness slamming down like a final curtain. Frosting on the cake: Mom was off her meds and had no scotch. I’m feeling that kind of scared.

This body is a shell I hardly know I’m inhabiting. Sometimes, if I reach really hard, stretch out my leg as far as it will go, my big toe can briefly touch Mother Earth, and momentarily I remember what it feels like to feel grounded, solid within myself, my body a vessel to fuel my brain and feed my mind, intellect, thoughts, emotions and decisions. But when life cracks wide open, what’s left to decide?

My big toe breaks from the earth and I am untethered. Why should I care what I do with this body? It’s now not even a shell, but a dry, brittle husk—and I’m no longer the tenant.

*

© 2011 Excerpt from Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations by Kat Ward

My W.A.Y.S. Journey – Day 2   2 comments

Blogging on my day-to-day experience doing the Where Are You Stuck? workbook by Lori Bertazzon.

(The first part when writing about the word-of-the-day is to just free write; purely an emotional response.)

Michel Keck at michelkeck.com

Day 2 word: Resistance

I’ve always thought of resistance as a good thing. The oppressed resist their oppressors—the American Revolution, Arab Spring, Libya. Blacks and women resist racism and sexism. We have to resist to achieve equality because the world will not just offer it up, especially when “they” consider you outside the norm, a member of the “other.”

And then, there’s resistance to change. Trust and believe in my talents and abilities? Resist! I resist truly believing in myself, which then handcuffs and paralyzes me.

When resistance is a societal reaction, great! When the resistance is within me, to me, FOR me, then I need to address it and change.

Lori says resistance is information. Okaaaay…I’ll take a look at that. Harrumph.

(The questions posed next in the workbook ask us to respond objectively, to be our own observer.)

Did you find any beliefs contrary to what you thought you believed or contrary to what you want? Resisting myself, resisting my belief and trust in my talent is definitely contrary to what I want.

Where did that old belief come from? Society as a whole taking the macro view; my family when looking through the micro-lens. My family was supportive of my art, but I received the strong, silent message that creating art was not a career of. Art is admirable, but it’s not a career. So, when I feel drawn and compelled to create, I feel like a failure from the very start—like I have to drown my joy, dreams and desires just as I’m about to jump gleefully and giddily into the world’s greatest waterhole.

As a teenager, I had rebelled via my depression for so long, but didn’t really get a lot of pleasure from my art. I then put it away for years. Then, when I reconnected to writing and it truly was the time to rebel (not through depression, but through creating art), instead I towed the line.

Are you willing to let your old belief go? Yes! …but, that’s a bit scary; not sure I can.

Claude Monet's "Water Lilies: the Clouds"

How could you positively flip that old belief? What belief would you like to have? I resist the conventional definition of what having a “responsible” career means. I believe that my talent of writing is a gift and an asset to myself and society as a whole since it is unique to me, and no one else has my particular “voice.” I believe that focusing on my writing and helping other people’s quality art works emerge into the public forum and receive attention and recognition is a worthwhile and necessary goal.

Is there anything keeping you from believing it (i.e. fear, block, resistance, negative thought, low vibrating energy)? Hell, yeah! Scared to death of failing. Big talk about following dreams, yet I’m almost half a century old, got 5 cents in my pocket and nothing I’ve created so far has ever been thoroughly realized. Fear, blocks, resistance, the whole lot—they’re hanging on tight!

Take a deep breath. Now, let all that go. Read you new belief.

End of day 2…

© 2011 Article by Kat Ward

Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations – a novel   12 comments

This posting is another part of my current novel, though it’s not necessarily the next to come in the final manuscript. This introduces another character in the story of Samantha Stosur, an 11-year-old American girl in the 3rd Millennium.

“It’s the light. You must always take the side of the light. Resist the dark, Samantha, dear. Don’t let it lure you under.”

That’s Mrs. Marcie Doweel. Two down and one apartment over. At a gazillion plus, she isn’t a fraction taller than I am (considered a “good” height at 5′ 4″ in the fifth grade). Mrs. Doweel seems just as wide as she is tall but that may be the illusion of her narrow front door. Her apartment is always ablaze with lights, even during the day. As her body blocks the entranceway, she has a halo-head of light above her that makes it hard to truly see her face, which is fine because now that she’s past the octo-decade she’s kind of covered with what they call skin tags. My Uncle Ross is sprouting dozens of them, even on his neck and at the point of the “V” of all his t-shirts that are more undershirts and no child should be subjected to seeing the dark outline of his—yes, I’m going to say it—nipples, especially when the hair on them pushes against the meagre cotton and puffs it out. It’s enough to turn a girl sideways.

Anyway, shadow works well on Mrs. Doweel’s face, though I know if she realized a part of her was in darkness she would pop a majority of her pulled-too-tight buttons. Once she asked me in I saw that her apartment was a treasure chest of religious icons. Virgin Marys hang, sit, drape, and loom next to pictures, statues, throw blankets and pillows of Mary and her baby Jesus (who always looks like he has the face of a middle-aged man). Oddly, the grown-up Jesus’ that Mrs. Doweel has around—crucified on the cross repeated half a dozen times along the ivy wallpapered living room or carrying his cross or riding the donkey or having his last meal—is quite good looking in a rugged, manual laborer sort of way.

But, the freakiest of the freaky is the life-sized head wearing a crown of thorns with thick red drips of paint running down his face representing his blood (I re-emphasize that this is life-sized) which is kept pristine under a dome of glass. I had to put down my juice cup of V-8 when I first caught him looking at me; my hand shaking as it tried to find space on the side table with the year-round crèche stable scene (minus you know who). I nearly leapt off the couch, the plastic ripping at my thighs (don’t sit on the couch while wearing shorts in the heat of the summer) and made my excuses.

Mrs. Doweel seemed momentarily flustered. “I thought we were having a lovely visit,” she said.
I calmed down a bit when I looked back from the front door and Jesus was still staring; magic like the Mona Lisa—he’s eyeing everyone. Thank you, Jesus, ’cause I don’t need any religious hooji-booj in my life, though Mrs. D would say it’s a sign that I might want to do a little prayer or two, ’cause her savior is obviously eyeing me for a reason. A dark, evil-eye reason.

The thing is, I like the dark. It feels restful to have all of us hyped-up souls take a time out. It seems to me like people speed through their day like they’re in an all-out sprint. Sometimes this life feels like a whole lot of elbow swinging, the shoulder-height kind, the way basketball players swing after a rebound (elbows up and out) holding tight onto the ball, twisting at the waist right and left to clear out any of the opposing team. Mine, mine, mine. “Looking out for number one,” Uncle Ross would say. “Nothing wrong with that.” But, I’m not so sure. How does number two feel? Hell, what about number twenty-two? They’ve gotta feel like crapola.

The night is stillness, it’s down time. Of course, I know the quieted souls are merely re-energizing so they can do it all again once their alarms start kicking up a fuss, but I feel like I’m getting some respite (vocab list #4), so I can be re-energized to meet them head on.

*

© 2011 Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations by Kat Ward

Posted September 30, 2011 by Kat Ward in Fiction Writing

Tagged with , , , ,

Keeping Sane – A Novel   12 comments

I thought since this blog is partly named after the novel I am currently writing, that I’d share a piece of what I have, introducing the narrator and main character.

KEEPING SANE, AND OTHER ASPIRATIONS
by
Samantha Stosur
An American Girl
In the 3rd Millennium

     Sanity questions lapping up against the mind of an eleven-year-old; that’s odd, right? Like, what eleven-year-old should be thinking about being sane or insane, or wondering if it runs in the family, along certain bloodlines or simply does a snatch an’ grab for anyone within reach? I’m still working out whether or not my future includes succumbing to it and hitting 911 on my speed dial (I jot that down in the “Not Good” column) or whether my constant alertness and a well-timed right hook will keep lurking loony-tunes way the hell away from me.

But who am I kidding? Questionable sanity is running rampant in my world. I suppose you may be around in the end, and then you can make your own conclusions. If I feel like I’m heading straight for padded walls, I’ll suggest you put the book down and call it a day. There’s no need for you to go with me on that ride. I’m sure you have enough of your own problems; life is hard enough as it is.

“Life is hard.” Didn’t that statement knock the barrettes out of my hair the first time I heard it. Uncle Ross introduced that sound-bite philosophy the afternoon he dragged Mom home from a pre-Wednesday night binge. Uh, it’s Wednesday, guys. Aren’t binges supposed to be for Friday and Saturday? Thursday at the earliest. Jesus, Wednesday; I knew that was a bad sign.

Dad had moved out the month before. I still saw him almost every day, which I think only accelerated Mom’s bingeing. It’s gotta be hard to get over your first love now that you’re twelve years older and got a body chock-full of cellulite, stretch marks and sagging boobies. I think that was the kick in the ass more than anything. Mom no longer feels young and pretty, and now she’s been dumped. She ardently believes that the least Dad could do since he was the other half in creating me (thus the reason she’ll not be buying any bikinis in her future) is to stand by her now and worship her body, no matter what it looks like. The problem is, Dad still looks like a god with six-pack abs, python arms and long girly-lashes that all the ladies envy. Mom’s pissed. It doesn’t help when our new next-door neighbor stops to welcome us, her two young boys wrapped around her toned thighs, her taut abs (extra-obvious below her cropped top) grabbing Mom’s attention, taunting her.

I find Mom sobbing in her bedroom.

“It’s not fair!” she cries. She says more, but it’s rather incoherent, the crook of her elbow receiving the brunt of it.

Uncle Ross overhears her and shouts back, “Life isn’t fair, woman. Life is hard. You know that. Now, get in here and crack a beer with me.”

Mom waves me out of the room and I’m glad to go because I have no idea what to say. I walk past Uncle Ross to get into the kitchen and he whispers to me, “Her ass ain’t never going to draw any guy’s eyes again, so we’s just got to distract her a bit.”

“By getting her fatter?” I say.

“Nah, by keeping her distracted, I said. And maybe a bit tight.”

Ah, Christ, I think, then grab myself a Mountain Dew and make a beeline for my bedroom. When Uncle Ross helps her get drunk he just climbs into his ancient Chevy and swerves home. I’m the one who’s stuck wiping Mom’s head with cold cloths, making sure she doesn’t choke on her vomit and cleaning up the toilet seat after she hasn’t aimed quite as she should. I also get to slog through her hangover pity-party the next morning, when she’s feeling so bad that not only do I have to make my own breakfast and lunch, fake her signature on the permission slip for a class trip to see Taming of the Shrew, but I get to dig out my rain boots and coat, and leave early enough to catch the metro bus—’cause she’s still too drunk to drive me. Yeah, thanks, Uncle Ross. Spot on.

I write his name in the “Not Good” column. In ink.

*

© 2011 Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations by Kat Ward.

This is me. My name is Kat.   2 comments

Keeping Sane is not only the name of my blog, but it is a state of mind that I have attempted to maintain throughout my life (and, yes, sometimes successfully, and sometimes, quite clearly not).

I have had a photography company for over a decade, primarily shooting actors’ headshots, specializing in children (cuz they’re a blast); business and publicity photos; school pictures (not your everyday, sit against the grey-blue background, fold your hands in you lap and hope-for-a-decent-smile kind of traditional school pics–for examples, visit my website); and family portraits.

I am an unpublished writer, working very hard (and crossing my fingers) to change that. I am currently soliciting for representation of my novel AMY’S OWN and working on my new fictional piece KEEPING SANE, AND OTHER ASPIRATIONS.

I have begun to write blurbs for the website Hometown Pasadena created by Colleen Bates (Prospect Park Books) who wrote the guide book of the same name, along with Hometown Santa Monica and Hometown Santa Barbara. Reading them is like being shown around town by a friend (conversational, informative and humorous). I highly recommend them. And, check her publishing website for all her latest titles.

It’s official. I can put “Editor” on my resume. I have received a credit in the self-help workbook Where Are You Stuck? by Lori Bertazzon. Lori’s personal one-on-one sessions in conjunction with her workbook has hauled me out of the hole in which I was stuck and started me on the ride of my life. She is a stunning talent and gets a 5 Star recommendation. If you’re stuck, look her up.

I have also just finished experiencing Kevin Bertazzon’s newly released illustrated storybook ISMS (a faery mobster story) as an Apple App for the iPad (did I just muck up all that jargon?). It will soon be available in different formats. Anyone drawn to the work of George R.R. Martin should check out Kevin’s masterful work.

(I’m not throwing out these adjectives like “stunning” and “masterful” lightly. These two works have blown my tender little mind into wonderful, light-filled, inspired pieces. (I’m trying to reassemble them now—but, then again, maybe not).

Otherwise, I am in love with the new neighborhood into which my daughter and I have moved (after decades in L.A. proper, I was ready for a night-and-day change); I’m attempting to get my awesome rear end to run more times around the block to dissolve the far too many fat cells I’m carrying; and my daughter and I are making an impassioned, concerted effort to maintain the health of our favorite cat who has diabetes (diabetes!?!?!)—all the normal stuff.

My next post will be a piece I wrote some years ago which I think illustrates the point I made in why I chose the blog name Keeping Sane. Hope you enjoy.

*photo from my photojournalism days: Saugatuck River, Westport, CT