Beneath Your Beautiful Nov Dec 2023

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Hara Allison

At Beneath Your Beautiful, we are committed to spreading positivity and hope + improving lives through raw and compassionate storytelling. If you, or someone you know, has a story to share, please reach out to


Elin Adcock

FRONT COVER ART P H O T O G R A P H E R Krister Andersson See more of Krister’s work on page 54

BACK COVER ART M O D E L Troy Nickerson

All rights reserved. Contents of Beneath Your Beautiful, including articles and artwork/photography may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the express consent of Beneath Your Beautiful. P H O T O G R A P H E R Hara Allison





























bit by bit

by Elin Adcock

Recently, I was listening to a Beneath your Beautiful podcast episode I had been looking forward to because the guest was someone who had also written an article for the magazine. However, midway through the podcast, I

the stories we tell ourselves, how we present

stopped, confused, and thought, “Wait a

ourselves to others and how we’re perceived?

minute! Is this the same person who wrote the article?” After confirming it was, I couldn’t help

Oftentimes, using social media, we cultivate a picture of ourselves through the stories we share and the memes we post. Some share

but marvel at how it seemed these were two

essays, some snippets of their lives, some their

completely different people: the author who

deepest thoughts, and still others share how

wrote about herself and her accomplishments

they feel about the world around them.

and the podcast guest who shared more of her struggles and shortcomings. It made me wonder if we see ourselves clearly at all. How great is the divide between

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But how much of what we share is true, or what we believe to be true? And how much is pre-packaged to present an image of the person we think people want us to be, or who

we feel we should be, rather than who we

have known me to be volatile, impatient and

truly are? And are we even aware?

explosive. My friends see a fun-loving go-

Recently, I was flattered after receiving compliments from a respected friend – a

getter, generous with her time and knowledge. Which is true?

woman who is caretaker for her husband with

My aging brain and trauma of the past

early onset dementia – as I was for mine. She

few years have slowed me down and has

said, “You are such a dynamic, caring and

allowed imposter syndrome to kick in: my

open person, so brave in your decisions, so

younger coworkers seem sharper, more

willing to put yourself out there. I just enjoy

technically adept and with faster recall. I

being around your energy. You make me want

share my wisdom and knowledge and attempt

to be more confident, and it encourages me

to encourage them, but do they see me as an

to put myself out there, too!” I was so taken

inspiration or as the nagging mom-type?

aback that I don’t remember if I even thanked her at the time. The stark difference between what she sees and how I see myself really struck me. After losing my husband to a dementia that

Losing my husband has stripped away the noise and pared me down to the bare bones of who I am, who thought I was, and what my life means. No longer do my looks matter much as well

stole him from me long before he died, I feel

as my perceived successes a priority. My friend

lost and broken; seriously damaged by the

circles became much smaller. Being known is

caretaking experience.

really all I have left in my limited time.

My soul feels shredded and my confidence has been destroyed. I’ve been anxiously going back in time trying to pinpoint the

So I take one step, and then another, walking towards a future I never imagined. And bit by bit, I get closer to knowing

time where his disease began and if our love

myself – seeing all the good qualities not only

was ever real.

I imagine myself to have, but that others see

I don’t feel dynamic. I don’t feel brave. I feel

as well. I reconcile my flaws – acknowledging,

small and alone and frightened. My life was

accepting and bettering – and at the end of my

shattered, changed in the blink of an eye.

path, I’ll show the world all of me, the real me,

With this in mind, I’ve been trying to

good and bad, and I’ll leave my mark on those

piece together the puzzle of me. My children

I’ve loved. BYB

Ordinarily a very self-assured person, Elin Adcock has spent the better part of her life focused on family, career and her vintage VW obsession – pretty much in that order. In recent years, she has added some backyard chickens, a flock of cockatiels and garden beds to her list of hobbies. With retirement age looming, this newly-widowed woman is on a journey of self-discovery, one that is causing her to re-evaluate her life as it was, and how it will be in the coming years. Her devoted sons, sisters, nieces and nephews are now front and center in her life, lifting her spirits and acting as her true north. It is their support, as well as her editorial efforts for this magazine and advocacy for the ALS and FTD communities that has allowed her to move forward with purpose through this difficult time. You can find more of her original works at The Write Stuff, a blog page hosted by several ALS patients and caregivers.

Sandcastles I began shooting “Sandcastles” when I returned to Algeria after an eight-year absence. I knew my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, but I did not suspect the scope of the damage. I thought having Alzheimer’s “just” meant forgetting things and people. I did not suspect the scope of the suffering. The untold truth was much worse, so much so that it made me question the very existence of human dignity. People don’t want to discuss the reality of this disease, they hide it because of stigma, or fear, or pain. This prompted me to witness her journey through pictures. My grandmother’s decay was also mirrored in her immediate surroundings: the half collapsed roof of the warehouse adjacent to our house, the cracks in the walls, the paint peeling, the gloom and disillusion manifested by my cousins. Juxtaposed against my personal pain, the general atmosphere in the country was joyful. It was 2019, and like many in the world, Algeria was witnessing a historical popular movement; people were taking over public spaces every Tuesday and Friday singing and chanting, hoping for a better future. That same year, our national football team won the African Cup of Nations. It was exhilarating! There was a radical contrast between the absence of my personal hope and this moment of historical optimism, between ruins and nation-building, between the veneer and

the bleakness. Beginning this series was an attempt to make sense of these contradictions. Because my grandmother lived through two wars and a decade of terrorism, I also wondered whether the weight of history and the silenced collective trauma had not something to do with the destruction of her brain cells. Photography, as a fragmented medium replete with silences seemed the ideal tool to tell that story. After her difficult death, I abandoned this project. It was left dormant until my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year later. I couldn’t bridge the gaps of my absence with my grandmother but perhaps photographing my mother in the stages that I had missed before could help piece together that puzzle, draw a more complete picture, knowing it can never be complete. Ultimately, what “Sandcastles” really tries to get at is whether decay, be it architectural, biological or sociopolitical, is inevitable. Sandcastles are bound to be washed away eventually. After witnessing the decline of my grandmother and my mother, I wonder if my own decay is inevitable and serves as a mirror for my future self, engulfed as I am, as we all are, in the quicksands of time. SARAH BEN AMAR

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P H O T O G R A P H E R Sarah Ben Amar

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L E S S ONS by Hara Allison

I traveled more than 2500 miles to see Elizabeth Gilbert, the bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Dr. Tererai Trent, author of The Awakened Woman and Oprah’s all-time favorite guest, at a weekend retreat called “Awakening Magic” at Kripalu nestled in the Berkshire mountains. For months, I had planned and schemed: I

There were 300 people in the room, another

printed extra copies of the most recent issues

450 were live streaming, and we were all

of Beneath Your Beautiful magazine and

excited to awaken and kindle our dreams.

prayed I’d have enough courage to hand them

It felt electric.

to each of these women who have inspired me

A few days before the event, my daughter

so much. I didn’t even dare thumb through

helped me practice what I’d say as I handed

the issues so they would be pristine.

the magazine over. I smiled shyly and told a

My plan – this hairbrained scheme –

picture of Elizabeth, with a shaky voice and

was my only marketing strategy: when they

sweaty palms, how she has positively affected

saw the magazine, saw the talent I brought

my life. I told the picture how her words have

to designing it, saw the incredible stories

changed me and how important it was for me

people shared in it – the heart-wrenching and

to create this magazine so I can share

heartwarming beauty – they would share it

the beauty I see in the world.

with their audiences. I would be applauded

I practiced several times.

for my vision and be lauded for how I was

And then, when the night came to a

changing the world. They would see I was

conclusion, I hustled to the front of the room.

just like them: a vulnerable changemaker.

I walked up and handed Elizabeth the

The first night of Awakening Magic I sat in the audience, abuzz with possibility.

envelope as she was trying to exit. I kind of accosted her. I felt embarrassed and panicky.

“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.” E L I Z A B E T H G I L B E R T, B I G M A G I C

I’m certain I thrust the envelope at her and

tells Cecilia, a young poet, to design her own

said, “this is my dream.” Nothing of what I’d

diploma - that she didn’t need acceptance into

rehearsed came out of my mouth. She took the

an MFA program to know whether she was an

package, looking confused, and walked away.

artist. She said, “Don’t put the authority into

And then I waited.

someone else’s hands.” Why do I keep forgetting that my value, my

I imagined her looking through the magazine that evening in her room,

dreams, my worthiness are found within? It’s

moved and feeling compelled to mention me

mine to bestow! I decide!

the next day: to tell the audience about how

This dream is inside me because I’m the

amazing my dream is – how amazing I am!

perfect person to bring it to life and it’s a

(I see now that that is part of the problem!)

worthy pursuit. And then I remembered something else

But, of course, that didn’t happen. Nothing happened.

that happened recently: I received an email

With my dreams in her literal hands,

from a local Women of Achievement awards

I felt deflated and defeated.

ceremony and seeing that in my inbox, for a

Throughout the weekend we continued to

moment, I thought, “They recognize the value

hear about Tererai’s dream. And compared

I’m bringing to the world!” The body of the

to hers, mine felt unimportant. Rather than

message, however, asked me to consider being

being buoyed, I felt shot down. If they didn’t

a volunteer – to be an usher. Ha!

see the good I was doing in the world, maybe

However, with some distance and clarity,

I should just give up? The week following the event, I felt at a crossroads.

I see I am an usher, guiding others by shining a light, allowing them to shine. I definitely prefer being behind the scenes,

But then, luckily, I remembered something Elizabeth said at the retreat: the reason she

yet playing an essential role. I am uncomfort-

was never able to find satisfaction with a

able being center stage. (Remember I could

sexual partner was because she was looking

barely speak to a picture of Elizabeth?) But

for it in the wrong person. “I was looking for

behind the camera, behind the microphone,

it outside of myself,” she said.

and behind the computer screen, I excel. I went to Awakening Magic expecting others

Heck! She’s taught me this before! Years ago, I listened to Magic Lessons,

to validate my dreams. Instead, I returned to

episode 204: “Who gets to decide whether you’re

myself; yet another lesson that I’m always the

a legitimate artist?” In that episode, Elizabeth

answer. And that is some big magic, indeed! BYB

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” ELIZABETH GILBERT

Hara Allison is an award-winning designer, photographer and podcaster as well as publisher and designer of Beneath Your Beautiful magazine. Hara loves to tell stories with her art and to capture our depth and our longings.

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Love After Love B Y D E R E K WA LC O T T

The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.

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I d e ntiti e s A little insight into how much the inner and the outer worlds interrelate and interact. The environment conditions us, human beings, and we shape it in return. A N N A PA R S H E N KO

M O D E L Svetlana Kuznetsova P H O T O G R A P H E R Anna Parshenko

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blossom my


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M O D E L A N D P H O T O G R A P H E R Anna Parshenko

by Tracy Simmons

I failed at something this summer, and I’m still harping about it. Some months ago, I was invited to participate

Pivot talk in 2020. Both presentations took

in a speaker’s bureau for a statewide human-

place during COVID, when the crowds were

ities organization. As honored as I was to

smaller, or virtual. It was a good step outside

be invited to apply, Naturally, I accepted

of my comfort zone, but I knew I still needed

the invitation.

to improve my public speaking skills. The

I’m not a good public speaker. I stumble

speaker’s bureau was a way to keep pushing

over my words, and my hands shake. I write

and challenging myself. Plus, I had something

and rewrite what I’m going to say, agonizing

to say.

over every word, and then practice my talk

For this audition, I decided to focus my

in the mirror repeatedly. Even if I have my

talk on the importance of religion reporting.

speech memorized, I rely heavily on my

Perhaps that was my first mistake - people

notes, because without fail, a transition, or a

tend to be more interested in my experience

sentence or maybe even an entire paragraph

growing up in a cult, but I wasn’t sure how to

will just disappear from my brain.

connect that to the humanities. Journalism

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Unless

and religion, to me, seemed like an obvious

you try to do something beyond what you have

fit. Religion reporting explains how people

already mastered, you will never grow.”

experience and express the world around

That’s why I gave both a TEDX Spokane and

them based on their values. After 20 years on

the beat, I could talk about that all day.

Maybe I was a little cocky because I was

The virtual audition, though, came at a

invited to apply for this bureau and thought

bad time. Jet-lagged from my return trip

I had an edge. Thinking I had an edge, and

after three weeks in Greece where I had

losing it, makes it worse. The experience has

led 21 undergrad students on a journalism

me thinking about failure, which has always

study abroad trip, I was not in best form.

been unacceptable to me.

While abroad, I didn’t have as much time

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron once said

as I thought I would to prepare my talk and

at a commencement address that failure

prep for questions. And I hadn’t used Zoom

can be like a “portal to creativity, to

in weeks; some ill-timed program updates

learning something new, to having a fresh

created unexpected technical snafus, like

perspective.” That means there’s a lesson

not being able to play audio or share only a

in this, an opportunity. I do still believe in

portion of my screen.

the key message I was trying to share —

As a result, the committee saw me reading

that religion reporting makes a difference

tiredly from my notes and heard a speech

in communities. Perhaps there’s still an

that was written on a 12-hour plane ride and

innovative way I can share this idea.

needed refinement and a lot more editing. I

But maybe the more important lesson

wouldn’t have selected me either, based on

is about self-compassion. We all mess up

that performance, so I wasn’t surprised when

sometimes, and that’s OK; it’s part of what

I got the “We’re sorry to inform you” email.

makes us human. And I’ll try again if an opportunity like this

Still, I was disappointed. I know better. I know I need to write drafts and practice, but I didn’t make the time.

one comes along again. It would be a failure not to. BYB

Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion and digital entrepreneurship. In her 13 years on the religion beat, Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. With a notepad tucked in her pocket, Simmons has found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Currently a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University, Simmons serves as the executive director of FāVS News, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She also submits nationally and is a reporter and columnist for the SpokesmanReview and the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

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P H O T O G R A P H E R Wencke Neumann

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Wencke Neumann is a hobbyist photographer who lives in a small town in central Germany. She is a wife and mother to a beautiful and energetic daughter. She and their furry cat friend, Mr. Jinks, gives Wencke plenty of material to work with. Wencke also captures her family’s everyday life, and the beauty of nature. Being very much drawn to rich tones and low light, you will see those elements throughout her work. As a child, Wencke loved flipping through family photo albums and listening to the stories behind those photographs. Her passion for photography was sparked in college, shooting with an old film camera, and developing the photographs after hours in the school’s darkroom.

JasonTHOMAS Jason Thomas is a mostly self-taught artist that works in oil, watercolor and ink. His artistic ambitions began while living in his home state of Alaska, but are coming to fruition in the many eccentric corners of Spokane, WA. He believes making art provides an understanding of reality that is unique and irreplaceable.

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Charlie Chaplin

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M O D E L Artemyeva Anna P H O T O G R A P H E R Belov Evgeny Ivanovich

Clown Zhorik

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M O D E L Yuri Svetlakov P H O T O G R A P H E R Belov Evgeny Ivanovich

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specialabilities by Mary McDirmid

Mary McDirmid, ChSNC, is the founder and COO of Special Abilities Network, an organization dedicated to empowering families caring for a loved one with special needs. Their role is to address immediate financial needs, as well as financial planning for the future needs of the family, especially future planning for a child who will need support for the remainder of their life.

My older daughter, Charlie, was born healthy; what is called typical. Ruth was born with a rare disease called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, or TSC. The crayon version is, she has tumors form in her major organs over time. We are forced to monitor Ruth’s health closely, regularly testing for tumors and evaluating what, if any action, should be taken. She also suffers seizures, partly due to tumors in her brain, and also as a byproduct of the disease.

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Tumors are often removed with surgery. It’s also possible to treat them with chemo-type medicine that shrinks them, but chemo can

we were really kind of separated, in terms of caregiving parenting. It has been hard for me to just be a parent

only work as long as you are taking it. The

and not be overprotective with Ruth, and I

tumors will go back to their original size if

don’t like that. I don’t want to be that parent. I

the medication is discontinued.

want her to experience hard things and I’ll be

We first learned Ruth had this disease

there for both of them, but with Ruth, it was

when I was pregnant, so we knew what we

an adjustment. That’s the hard thing of being

were facing immediately upon her birth.

a parent in general, but more so with a child

We knew to look for seizures and symptoms

with health issues.

and were very proactive. Ruth had neuro-

My suggestion is to go through the feelings

surgery in 2019 to combat a tumor that was

and then, as you work through them, you’ll

causing seizures. We carefully managed

find your people. Find any support you can:

medications, because for us, the name of the

grandparents that can take your other child

game was seizure control. Seizures cause

for appointments or possibly a nurse and

damage to the brain, and repeated seizures

that isn’t afraid of kids with higher medical

can affect learning.

needs. Reaching out for services can be

We’ve been fortunate to have been on a

overwhelming because they are going to

“seizure vacation” since March of 2020, and

give you a giant notebook of people to call

we’re in this wonderful, beautiful place that

and things to do. Just start with one thing

we never thought we would be. Ruth’s future

you can do today. If that doesn’t work, go to

is looking very bright to us today, because

the next thing and then to the next thing.

she’s currently at camp with her sister,

You’re going to have to advocate for you

something I never would have let myself

and your family, so learn to ask questions

imagine for her. With her continued good

and being curious with your medical

health, we’ve been able to be parents to her

team, your school district, an OTPT office

rather than caregivers.

(occupational and physical therapy). Present

I think we were lucky to know early. I didn’t

it to them as “This is our team; I want you on

think we were when I was pregnant or when I

my team and the whole goal is to make sure

was visiting the NICU and crying my eyes out,

this kid gets what they need.”

but it’s really a lucky thing to at least know

If I could go back in time, I wish there had

your path. It’s also hard to battle something

been a list of moms they could’ve given me

like this when you have to care for another

that had gone through the same experience.

child, so in the beginning, it was “divide

I wish there was someone I could’ve called to

and conquer.” My husband was spending a

talk it all out with. This is my whole mission

lot of time with Charlie and I was with Ruth

now: everything I’m doing in this community

in the NICU. I spent a lot of time taking her

is because it shouldn’t be worse for someone

to appointments, with EEGs and all of the

else coming behind me. I’m not going to fix it,

things that come with seizure control, and

but support needs to happen. BYB

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Krister Andersson was born and currently lives in the small town of Simrishamn in southern Sweden. He got his first experience with photography in the early 90s, when he took an evening course in darkroom technology, learning how to develop black and white images. A member of the local photography club, Krister uses the backdrop of his town and the people who live there to create his beautiful works of art. Each of his subjects receive a photo print from him, keepsakes that are very much appreciated.

P H O T O G R A P H E R Krister Andersson

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by David DuBois

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), caregivers serve as nurse, nutritionist, pulmonologist , psychologist, beautician, physical therapist, contracting officer, spouse, friend, and many other titles. If the first question that goes through a

begun. She was slowly adjusting meals to

caregiver’s mind is, “What does this mean

make them easier for me to eat and helping me

for the person who has ALS?” is the second

with my shirt buttons. Our understanding of

question “What does this mean for ME?” I

ALS was growing, and we were now assigned

don’t think so, because a true caregiver never

to the DC Veterans Affairs ALS clinic.

asks that question before jumping into action.

Within two months I was already down 40

They don’t have time, and they certainly don’t

pounds, and Laura’s Nutritionist training had

slow down long enough to care what they are

officially begun. Laura was enrolled in the

about to do.

School of Hard Knocks and the tuition was

The day I came home and told my wife

paid for by ALS. I was given a G-Tube, which

Laura I had ALS, we cried together first, and

we use to supplement my food and help stop

then she looked at me and said, “We will get

the weight loss. Over the next few months,

through this together.” What we did not know

Laura would help feed me, request food

at the time, though, was what, “get through

changes based on my reaction to the food, and

this together” truly meant. As the patient,

of course, navigate some spills along the way.

when my body changes, I adjust and do what

After several G-tube changes and revisions

I can. However, for the caregiver, it requires

to the supplement I am taking, I’m finally

having to put their life on hold.

gaining a little weight back. I’ve even found

When this journey first started, I was still taking care of myself. I was a full-time worker,

ways to still have my favorite drinks. With her Nutritionist degree in hand,

volunteer, husband, and dad. Laura took care

Laura turned to her next training as a

of our home and her business while serving as

pulmonologist. As September arrived, I was

both wife and mother. Nothing really changed

having issues with my oxygen levels and the

much, other than a few minor issues and

ENT recommended a tracheostomy to help

doctor appointments.

me. In October I received my trach and lost

Nine months later, on the day of my official

the last of any remaining speech I had left.

diagnosis, everything changed. By now, my

After 14 days in the hospital dealing with my

speech was slurred and I was having a harder

new trach and pneumonia, Laura’s training

time eating. Laura’s duties as a caregiver,

formally began. She quickly mastered the

without her even knowing it, had already

Trilogy machine, learning how to use the

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ventilator, suction, cleaning the inner canula,

and teaches them how to care for and love

and teaching others what to do.

their ALS patient.

Two degrees down already, she then

Not everyone can be a caregiver and

moved onto Psychologist. Laura talks to me,

not every caregiver truly cares. The love,

family members, and friends daily, patiently

compassion, and care required takes a special

listening to our concerns. Like a psychologist,

person, and it will forever change their life.

she offers them a virtual seat on the couch

Laura has put her life on hold - we don’t know

and shares our journey while reassuring

for how long. Even with nurses and aides she

them that we are doing well. Everyone leaves

can only get a few hours off physically, but

feeling better and comforted by knowing

emotionally her responsibility never turns

that Laura is her taking of me. Never putting

off. Dominique, our daughter, moved from

herself first, she also never puts her burdens

Hawaii to Virginia and spends every night

on us.

and weekend at home. She also has mastered

As I lost more of the ability to take care of

many of the skills and will soon graduate with

myself, Laura began training for her Nursing

her PHD in ALS as well. Not every loved one

degree. Pharmacy orders, administering

who loves their Patients with ALS (PALS) can

meds, giving me showers, and wiping my ass,

do it. It really takes more than love, it takes a

she quickly mastered these skills as she had

deep commitment and Godly love to another.

all the others. Using her skillful hands and

Without caregivers, PALS would be hopeless

loving touch, she easily moved on to Physical

patients in nursing homes and hospitals

Therapy. As I lose my flexibility, ability to

waiting to die. Our caregivers’ love and

use my hands and legs, she stretches me and

compassion gives us hope and a will to live.

massage my muscles. ALS takes your muscles

We can be assholes dealing with our feelings

away and maintaining flexibility is critical.

and not thinking of those taking care of us.

Already leading her class with many

Although there are programs that provide

degrees completed, Laura moved on to earn

some funding assistance, that funding is far

her Masters degree of ALS, and she only had

from making up the money lost due to caring

a few classes left towards her Doctorate in

for PALS. For a caregiver, this is not a chosen

ALS, Contract and Time Management being

career, this is thrust upon them. Caregivers

the capstone classes. Setting up schedules

give PALS the option to pass with dignity in

to provide for my needs, managing the vast

their home. I pray to God over my caregivers

varieties of medical professionals and visitors,

every morning when I wake and every night

she is a master juggler and far better than any

before I sleep, and He answers me, everyday.

in a three-ring circus. Laura is the ultimate

The next time you meet a caregiver, give

advocate that puts on her Superwoman cape

them a hug, tell them thank you, and that you

and fights for my rights and needs. As the

love them. Spend a little time with them and

construction of our ADA accommodations

allow them to tell you how they feel. Buy or

begins, she also makes all decisions and

bring them a meal so they have one less thing

manages the contractors daily to make sure

they need to do. Don’t ask them how you can

everything comes out perfectly.

help them, but ask them how can you help

With her Doctorate of ALS complete from the School of Hard Knocks, she now mentors

them most. If you are a caregiver or have been a

new students. As my family and friends

caregiver, thank you for all the sacrifices you

enroll, she guides them through the process

make so we can have peace. BYB

M O D E L Mae P H O T O G R A P H E R Dimitra Politidou

FA S H I O N D E S I G N E R Lettau Art Fashion

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M O D E L Emiri P H O T O G R A P H E R Dimitra Politidou

FA S H I O N D E S I G N E R Lettau Art Fashion

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P H O T O G R A P H E R Michael Duckworth

Michael Duckworth has always had a passion for photography, firmly rooted in a childhood spent exploring the wild landscapes of the Lake District. It was these early experiences of awe and wonder of nature that would drive him to pursue art, photography and film at Manchester. But it was a move to London that would truly shape Michael’s vision, as he soon found himself spending every spare moment with friends, working as a Director of Photography on short films, music videos and a multitude of other passion projects. It is clear that Michael’s work is inspired by his background in art and cinematography, each image evoking a sense of romance, but also the solitude and darkness of the city. His motivation is to create a cinematic atmosphere, allowing each viewer to immerse themselves in the captivating visuals and gain a glimpse into his world – one that is filled with mysterious stories, subtle emotions and vivid details. Michael’s photographs are not simply snapshots; they are windows into a larger narrative, inviting us to explore and discover its many layers. Through his pictures, Michael wants to encourage emotion, and provoke thought and connection with the beauty of the city.

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P H O T O G R A P H E R Bibi Retoucher Shibin J E W E L R Y D E S I G N E R Parakkat_jewels H A I R S T Y L I S T Shyni M O D E L Annie M A K E U P A R T I S T Rabooni A S S I S TA N T Biju

Traditional bride style in kerala India

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Tibetan Boy

M O D E L Tabajiazeng P H O T O G R A P H E R Luo Song

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P H O T O G R A P H E R Yulia Dubina

Hold on tight The Roller Coaster Journey Raising Neurodivergent Children by Jan Stewart

Looking back, it’s hard for me to believe what my husband, children and I have endured. But there has

a soother or suck his thumb? Which local

also been despair

school should he attend? Which camp? Should

and anguish,

we send him to day care? These discussions

helplessness and

seemed earth-shatteringly important at

frustration. And

the time. In hindsight, they were ludicrous.

fear. Fear of my

The challenges that come with your child’s

nine-year old son

neurodiversity put everything in perspective.

Andrew’s screaming meltdowns that lasted

Andrew was born on his due date and slept

up to two hours almost every day for nine

well through the night from the start. But

months…fear of his non-stop compulsive

David and I grew increasingly concerned

rituals, whether getting down on the filthy

about a number of his behaviours. Unlike our

subway floor and licking it repeatedly or

friends’ babies, he never gurgled or talked to

putting a knife in his mouth to “feel” it… fear

himself in his crib; instead, he started crying

of my seven-year old daughter Ainsley’s out of

the minute he woke up and demanded to be

control, disruptive behaviour…and fear of her

picked up and fed. If we didn’t control his food

physical aggression towards me when she was

intake, he would keep eating. I contacted our

a teenager in deep distress.

doctor with every concern, who simply looked

Parents of children with mental health

at me and said, “Andrew is just fine. Stop being

and neurodevelopmental disorders often

an overly vigilant parent and calm down.” I

find themselves in a secret club that few

trusted him: he was an experienced medical

people talk about. People are afraid to talk

professional after all, and what did I know as

about the elephant in the room. They fear

a first-time parent? Our families and friends

the unknown. But talk about it we must if

concurred with our doctor. Essentially, I was

we are to battle stigma, discrimination and

the problem.

misunderstandings. When I was pregnant with Andrew, my

As Andrew grew, his speech was delayed, although he understood what we said to

husband David and I had long discussions

him. And when he did start talking, he was

about his future. Should we allow him to use

overly loud, with a lisp accompanied by

slurring and drooling that grew worse every

her own troubling behaviours. While fun

year. It became very difficult to understand

and mischievous at home, she was wildly

him, which frustrated both him and us. He

disruptive at school, running around, jumping

also became upset anytime there was an

on desks, interrupting, swearing and shouting

unexplained change in activity, such as his

out. I was exhausted from the constant calls

friends suddenly deciding to play hide-n-seek

from the principal’s office. When she wrote

instead of tag. This led to constant tantrums.

me a note that said, “Mom, I know I’m a bad

Yet he was a charming, exuberant little boy, with many neighbourhood friends. He loved to sing and play with Ainsley. And he did well

child, but I can’t control my out of control behaviour,” my heart broke. She also developed overwhelming anxiety.

in school; besides noting his restlessness,

She couldn’t wait to sleep at her best friend’s

his teachers were pleased with his ability

house but couldn’t make it through the night.

to read, write and do math. At his school

She was paralyzed when faced with new

holiday concert one December, however, we

situations, people and activities. She had

noticed him repeatedly blinking his eyes

difficulty understanding social cues and

and shrugging his shoulders. Once again,

gradually lost every friend she had. When I

our doctor discounted my concerns: “It’s just

came home from work one afternoon to find

holiday stress, very common. He’ll grow out of

her curled up in a ball, crying, “Why don’t I

it.” I was perplexed, but that pit in my stomach

have any friends?,” my heart broke again.

kept growing. Shortly after Andrew’s ninth birthday, his

David and I didn’t initially know if she was copying Andrew’s behaviour, particularly

disorders finally reared their heads in full

because she idolized him. But she presented

force. While vacationing at his grandmother’s

so differently, and with the severity of

cottage one morning, he erupted into a

her own challenges, she was diagnosed at

frightening two-hour meltdown for no

the same time as he was: ADHD, Tourette

apparent reason. He morphed from my usual

Syndrome, mood and anxiety disorders, and

gentle, loving little boy into a monster I didn’t

learning disabilities.

recognize - screaming, swearing, kicking

Our family has been on a non-stop roller

and punching anything and everything in

coaster since, our lives turned inside out. We

his way. These meltdowns continued almost

have bounced from despair and helplessness

every day and were followed, within weeks,

to hope and pride and back again, becoming

by the sudden onset of non-stop rituals. He

accustomed to living with a never-ending

repeatedly tapped our shoulders, washed

pattern of trial and error dealing with these

his hands until they were raw and bleeding,

disorders. We have made many mistakes

swept the floor with his hands for hours, and

and have had many successes, and we know

gnawed on doors.

that the cycle is bound to continue. Some key

Our doctor could no longer brush me off. He referred us to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed Andrew with autism, Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ADHD and learning disabilities. It was such a relief to have my concerns validated, to know there were names to Andrew’s behaviours and that, above all, we could now start to get him the proper help. At the same time, Ainsley was exhibiting

insights I have learned through my journey: Trust your gut as a parent You know your child best. If you have a serious concern about your child, trust it! Don’t let family members, friends or your doctor dissuade you from your instincts. Talk openly with your child Children are naturally frightened when they don’t understand what’s going on in their lives and why they are causing pain and

havoc at home and at school. We need to explain to our children what is happening, discuss their feelings and let them know they are understood. Embrace needed medications and therapy I strongly believe that medications and therapy are powerful partners that help one another. Children with few support needs may benefit from either therapy alone or medication alone, but many children need both. Insist on an integrated partnership approach The best outcomes occur when caregivers and the professional listen to one another’s input, share information and work together as a team. I follow this rule: if a professional has no interest in involving David, the children and me as a team, it’s time to move on to someone else. Reset your expectations for your life These disorders affect the entire family, not just the neurodivergent child. In order to move forward, it’s important to accept and embrace the fact that life may not be as planned for or hoped for in many ways. Be kind to yourself, and to your partner Reach out for the support you need and carve out part of your life as your own, away from your partner and children, to gain some breathing room. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you make and pat yourself on the back to remind yourself of your strength and resilience. You are more than enough: you are your child’s champion.

“I never thought I would live with fear in my own house.” Many people have told me over the years that my children are a special gift. Andrew and Ainsley are special not because of their disorders but because of their determination, resilience, optimism and how they embrace life in the face of overwhelming challenges. They are extraordinary, and they are my heroes. I am so proud of them today. Andrew has a wonderful full-time job in IT at one of Canada’s leading telecommunications companies. He lives in semi-independent living just five minutes away from us. He has an infectious charm and embraces life with joy, and he is a mental health advocate and trailblazer. Ainsley is an incredibly gifted Child and Youth Counselor working with young neurodivergent children. I am convinced her own lived experiences combined with her deep intrinsic knowledge of Andrew have led her to her chosen profession. It’s breathtaking to see the children remain each other’s best friends and supports. We have, all of us, persevered through the most difficult of times, holding tight to our hope, and our love for one another. BYB

Jan Stewart is a highly regarded mental health and neurodiversity advocate, author and recipient of the prestigious Mom’s Choice Award.® Her best-selling memoir Hold on Tight: A Parent’s Journey Raising Children with Mental Illness describes her emotional roller coaster story parenting two children with multiple mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders. Her mission is to inspire and empower parents to persevere, have hope and know they are not alone, as well as to better educate their families, friends, health care professionals, educators and employers. Jan chairs the Board of Directors at Kerry’s Place Autism Services, Canada’s largest autism services provider, is a Today’s Parent columnist on autism and was previously Vice Chair at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She spent most of her career as a senior Partner with the global executive search firm Egon Zehnder. Jan is a Diamond Life Master in bridge and enjoys fitness, genealogy and dance.

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P H O T O G R A P H E R Pratik Majumder

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Pratik Majumder became interested in photography in the tenth grade, picking up a Nokia N72 to create his first images. Seeing his interest, his grandmother gifted him with an OLYMPUS DX 34 mm, honing his skills with family photos and nature landscapes. While attending college, Pratik bought a Nikon Coolpix L27 and began to work on portrait photography. He finally graduated to a Nikon DSLR and began his journey as a commercial photographer at his favourite inspiration, fashion Guru Somnath Roy’s (Sir) fashion workshop. Now the owner of his own advertisement agency, Pratik’s career has always centered on his love of photography.

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Choices by Katrina Byrd

On an August day in 1988, I walked home from my summer job at the Farish Street YMCA. I was fifteen and a freshman in the Lanier High School band. Dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, I moved along the sidewalk of Monument Street. I was quick and unresponsive to the honking horns and catcalls from the fluid noon traffic. A man in torn blue jeans walked towards me with a brown bag in hand. He brought the bag to his lips then howled when he returned it to his side. He looked at me then said,” Good Stuff!” I kept moving without a word. The man’s slurred words and stench of alcohol stayed

“Why you actin’ like that?” he said. “You could let a brotha’ hit that.”

with me like a wad of gum on the bottom

I walked faster. He followed.

a shoe. Two guys stood in New Deal Super

“So, you gone’ be like that, huh?” He

Market’s parking lot yelling at each other. My

stopped the truck, put it in park, then got

steps quickened, beating the pavement like a

out. I tried to run. He grabbed me. I was too

steady drum.

stunned to scream. Empty yards and silent

The drunk and the two men in the parking lot were long gone when I noticed the blue and

porches surrounded us. No traffic anywhere in sight.

white truck. I was a few steps from turning

“Leave me alone!” I said as we struggled.

off Monument when the driver slowed. The

His breath was heavy as he pulled me toward

passenger window was down.

the truck. My fear gave way to anger. I yanked

“You sho is fine,” he said.

away from him. My arms moving quick,

Ignoring him, I left busy Monument Street

making contact with his upper torso. He

headed toward Palmyra Street. The street was

grabbed my shirt, spinning me around in one

quiet and deserted. Thankful for the trees

quick motion. He snatched my glasses from

shading the street, I walked in peace and

my face.

silence, humming music we’d cover in band

Though I was a visually impaired teen, I

rehearsal later that afternoon. The low rumble

went to school with sighted children, read

of an engine behind me drew my attention.

regular print, and endured bullying and rude

The blue and white truck was beside me.

insults about my eyes. I stood on the empty

“Come on, baby,” the driver said “Let me have a taste.” I continued walking.

street humiliated and scared. Because of my blindness, I wore special glasses which were very expensive. My choices were fight a

grown man who stood next to the open door

truck sped away. She sat on the sofa holding

of his running truck or face my parents who

me as I cried. The front door slammed, and

couldn’t afford to buy new glasses.

Johnny’s heavy foot steps were on the front

“If you want ’em, come get ’em.” He dangled

room floor.

the glasses just above my reach then threw

“Call her parents,” he said.

them in the front seat of his truck.

Mrs. Griffin dialed the phone on the coffee

In a wave of clarity, I remembered my mom

table in front of us. “A man tried to hurt

rented a house at this end of Palmyra when I

Katrina,” Mrs. Griffin said into the phone

was two years old. The owners, who currently

when my mother answered. She told my

lived in it were nice people. They’re probably

mother I was safe then hung up. We all froze

at work.

when we heard the truck engine again. Johnny

My fear gave way to terror as I screamed

stormed out of the room and returned with

and screamed like I’d never screamed before.

his gun. The squeal of the truck’s brakes sent

I couldn’t remember which house they lived

chills down my spine. Johnny was out the

in, but I ran toward the first white house I saw.

door. The truck sped off again.

The driver was on my heels.

“Goddamned son of a bitch!” Johnny said

“Shut your fuckin’ mouth!”

as he returned to the front room holding

As I entered a dirt yard stumbling over tree

my glasses. “The asshole threw her glasses

roots screaming and crying, a screen door slammed, then a woman’s voice rang out.

in the yard.” “We’ve got to go back to work,” Mama said


after we made it home. Daddy paced the floor

I was at the right house. The lady was calling

stopping long enough to light a cigarette.

for her husband Johnny Griffin. The driver

“Don’t you leave this house.”

turned and ran back to is truck. Mrs. Griffin

“But I have band practice,” I said.

ran toward me. Her husband ran down the

“Are you crazy?” my daddy said. “That man coulda’ killed you.”

steps in the yard.

“I can’t stay locked in the house forever.”

“Did he hurt her?” “He… he got my glasses!” I said. “Son of a bitch!” Johnny said and ran toward

“Don’t you leave this house!” Mama said. She and Daddy returned to the car. Once they were gone, I took a deep breath

the truck. Mrs. Griffin took me into the house as the

then walked the six blocks to band practice. BYB

Katrina Byrd, a writer/playwright, is a 2018 MFA graduate of Mississippi University for Women. Byrd’s short plays appeared in several theatres including Vicksburg Theatre Guild, MOLJOAA Performing Arts Company and Bay St. Louis Little Theatre. Featured in literary magazines across the country, her fiction centers on strong female characters who overcome insurmountable obstacles. You can find Byrd’s fiction pieces in The Disappointed House Wife Literary Magazine, Black Magnolia’s Literary Magazine, and Kaleidoscope Literary Magazine. Due to an internship funded by the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation, Byrd, who is visually impaired since birth, served as a Book reviewer / At AWP18, Byrd interned with freelance writer and entrepreneur, Jane Friedman providing content for The Business of Being A Writer Blog. Byrd is a 2018 Mississippi Arts Commission Artist Minigrant recipient. After her partner’s death from ALS, Byrd began advocating for a cure with I AM ALS.

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M O D E L Taylor Stovern

P H O T O G R A P H E R Hara Allison

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STUDIO H creative is an award-winning design firm. After 32 years in business, we’ve done it all. Annual reports, event collateral, magazines, logos, packaging, social media graphics, photography, brochures, flyers, posters, menus, web and editorial design – including Beneath Your Beautiful Magazine!

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94 Beneath Your Beautiful Magazine Issue 12 Nov Dec 2023 P H O T O G R A P H E R A.Strelkovv

Orthodox priests

96 Beneath Your Beautiful Magazine Issue 12 Nov Dec 2023 M O D E L Ahnnie Schade C R E AT I V E D I R E C T O R A N D B O D Y M A K E U P A R T I S T Bethany Burrow

P H O T O G R A P H E R Hara Allison

e i n n h A

P H O T O G R A P H E R Grażka Grażka Łącka is a photographer, model, actress, bit player and performer. A naturally charismatic woman, she is very energetic and emotional, and is also an optimist and a great enthusiast.

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Involved in the arts since an early age, Grażka took her first musical steps in the ZHP Artistic Ensemble “Gawęda” under the leadership of Andrzej Kieruzalski. A graduate of the Phototechnical School Complex in Warsaw, she defended her diploma under the watchful eye of Professor Apolinary Matuszewski. As an actress, she realizes herself in smaller stage forms: episodes, etudes and music videos. Modelling being Grażka’s greatest strength, she currently combines posing and photography to create her works of art. P H O T O G R A P H E R Michał Ignar Photography became Michał Ignar’s passion when analogue photography was ruling, although nobody called it “analogue” then. He’s always been fascinated with people as the subject of his photos. The search for artistic expression has always been present in his family. His mother, a fashion designer, painted and drew pictures, His father, a scientist, wrote poems. His aunt was a painter and his brother a composer. With his first very simple camera - a Soviet Smiena - he took many portraits. At the beginning of his photographic path he had the opportunity to take pictures of Polish top models, who were happy to pose for him because they liked his Mum. It was an invaluable lesson. Many of his photos taken then, but also the contemporary ones, are published in the book Moda Polska – Warsaw by Ewa Rzechorzek (PWN, 2018) .


M O D E L Gabe Erickson P H O T O G R A P H E R Hara Allison

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G R A N D PA and C AT My grandfather, Victor Filippovich Zyryanov (1933 - 2022) lived in the Russian village of Sludka, Ilyinsky district. He was visually handicapped with total blindness. This touching relationship between he and his cat was filled with a whole spectrum of emotions including quarrels, apathy, reconciliation, happiness, bliss, illness, and separation. A N A S TA S I I A G O L U B E VA

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P H O T O G R A P H E R Anastasiia Golubeva

Anastasiia Golubeva’s primary occupation is chemistry. She has been head of a chemical laboratory for 18 years. She likes her job very much, She is involved in the purification of drinking water. However her creative nature had always been looking for a chance to express itself, so she got involved in photography. She studied photography at the New York Institute of Photography and last year she received the Photo of the Year award from Russian Photo Awards. Her works were also shown in St. Petersburg and at the Hermitage Garden in Moscow.



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P H O T O G R A P H E R Seigar

Seigar is a passionate travel, street, socialdocumentary, conceptual, and pop visual artist based in Tenerife, Spain. Obsessed with the pop culture that he shows in his works, he has explored photography, video art, writing, and collage. While he does write for some media, as well as sharing art and culture in his blog: Pop Sonality, his main inspirations are traveling and people. Seigar’s aim as an artist is to tell tales with his camera, creating a continuous storyline from his trips and encounters. He is a philologist who works as a secondary school teacher while studying the history of language. Although he is primarily a self-taught visual artist, he has completed a two-year course in advanced photography and one in cinema and television. A participant in several international exhibitions, festivals, and cultural events, his works have been featured in numerous publications worldwide. Most recently, Seigar was awarded the Rafael Ramos García International Photography Award.

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