Beneath Your Beautiful June 2023

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Hara Allison


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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


ARTIST Andrea Liss



MODELS Jeremy Whittington + Alex Wagner

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Elin Adcock
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of my bed. She kept saying my name, gently shaking me.

“Pia, Pia, can you hear me? Pia, try and wake up?”

It was 4:30am and a faint line of sunlight was visible below the curtains. I was waking up, I told her, but I was so tired. I feel odd, I said, I really have to pee.

Everything was happening in slow motion. Why is there a stranger in my bedroom?

I’m naked. Where is my husband?

I sat up and swung my legs out of bed and headed for the bathroom. In the hallway I found four EMTs. I nodded to them and closed the door to the bathroom. Such a relief.

Washing my hands, I looked myself in the mirror: two black eyes and a crusty blood dribble running down my chin. I looked pasty and tired. My mouth was weirdly swollen. Where was the blood coming from? My tongue hurt. I washed my face.

got a job!

And you look like crap!” Amazing how my inner critic did not miss a beat.

Still naked, I opened the door to the hallway and saw the EMTs, now gathered in the living room. Through the mini blinds I could see a firetruck outside. Odd, I thought, where is the fire?

I went back to my bedroom where my legs quietly, blissfully, gave in and I fainted on my bed.

This is as much as I can remember from the big seizure that marked the beginning of my journey with epilepsy. It was the late summer of 1998, and I had just landed my first full time job in the United States. This job was the crowning achievement of a seven-yearlong, anxious immigrant journey full of visa restrictions and other holdups. I’d traveled to the U.S. in 1991 with my professor husband and spent the first seven years supporting his career and raising our son. Over the last

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three years I’d finished college at Eastern Washington University — a double degree, Summa Cum Laude, top ten of my entire class, all the honors — and I had immediately landed a job at a local paper. It was finally my turn to taste some of this American success everyone was talking about.

And that’s when I had a huge seizure. The first of many.

After a trip to the ER, a brain scan and countless blood panels I was sent home with an appointment to see a neurologist. Sore and bruised — I’d bit my tongue and cracked a tooth - I limped around at home, feeling like I’d run a marathon without training for it. I slept so much. With my husband at work and my son in school, I was left alone to draw the dreadful conclusion that my brain was defective, it had stopped working, and I was doomed. I cried a lot.

All my life I relied on my brain to get me where I wanted to go. I was a stellar student, always at the top of my class, a quick learner of new languages, science, and even math. I wasn’t athletic, I could barely catch a ball, but my brain always worked — lightning fast, super charged, and accurate. Now this, my most reliable organ, had turned on me. It was no longer a familiar gray mattered friend, it had become unreliable and dangerous. Like an alien lifeform inside my body, it was trying to kill me. In the common post seizure depression, I convinced myself that I had turned dumb overnight. And if I was dumb, I was worthless.

Doctors could find no reason for my epilepsy. Nothing. Everything was normal, except when it wasn’t, and I passed out convulsing in my sleep, syntaxes firing randomly. I was bewildered.

My dad’s mom had epilepsy caused by a traumatic head injury she suffered as a young woman. Today, I realize that was a made-up story, a cover for her epilepsy diagnosis during a time when epilepsy was considered a mental illness along the lines of schizophrenia.

I remember her seizures: she’d sit at the table, cigarette in one hand, and suddenly start humming a weird guttural hum.

“Hey, take her cigarette before she burns herself,” my grandpa would say.

A few minutes later she’d snap out of it, reach for the cigarette, and take another drag.

Yes, I knew what epilepsy was and it was something I didn’t want.

People talked about my grandmother, saying she could not take care of herself. She could not drive. She got confused and couldn’t hold a job. She was dependent on my violent grandfather who blamed the smattering of black and blue bruises on falls caused by her seizures. People felt sorry for her. That was epilepsy to me. It trapped you and made you dependent, vulnerable. It meant you’d lose control over your life, a thought that terrified me.

With a new epilepsy diagnosis comes a sixmonth driving ban, and who on earth would employ a cub reporter who couldn’t drive? How would I get from, say, rural Stevens

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In the common post seizure depression, I convinced myself that I had turned dumb overnight. And if I was dumb, I was worthless.

County to a meeting in the Spokane Valley? How would I take my son to school and then get to work? I had worked so hard on this degree, I put everything I had into getting this job, and as I sat on the floor in my bedroom — crying once again — my career goal seemed unattainable. Lost.

My husband was strictly hands off. “You can walk our son to school,” he said, “then ride your bicycle to work. Or take the bus.” Whatever that looked like was my problem. He was not going to accommodate me.

I was scared. No one biked anywhere back then, and the climb back up the South Hill intimidated me. I was harassed by drivers. One time, a car full of young thugs pulled over and blocked my way, while they made loud comments about my body. They climbed back into the car yelling: “Nice ass! Really good tits for an old lady!”

I was 32 and terrified — no one helped me. I came home crying. “Why does stuff like that always happen to you?” my husband said. “Pull yourself together. It can’t be that bad.” It was clear he wasn’t going to help me. If I was to succeed at my new career, the logistics were entirely up to me.

I went to see my new boss, the newspaper editor, and to my enormous surprise — and eternal gratitude — he not only kept me on staff, but also offered to give me a ride home on late deadline nights.

With my job safe, I felt like I had a toehold on the future. That was a big turning point, so naturally, I cried some more.

The biking aggravated a running injury, and I went to see a massage therapist. It was a rainy day as I rode my bike up Stevens Street to her office, on the lower South Hill. I was running late, arrived steaming hot, and I asked her for a moment to cool down.

“What happened to you?” she asked, handing me a towel. “I rode my bike up here,” I said, wiping sweat off my face.

“You rode your bike? I beg your pardon?

Don’t you have epilepsy?” she asked. “Well, I do, but it’s the only way I can get around,” I said, while climbing up on the massage table.

“Your husband doesn’t drive you?” she asked. “No,” I said, “he’s at work.”

She was quiet for a bit. And then she offered the first bit of encouragement I can remember hearing: “Do you know how many people would take an epilepsy diagnosis and use it as an excuse to never leave the house again?” she asked. I shook my head no.

“So many people would do that; every day I see people who use a medical diagnosis as an excuse to stop living,” she said. “Your attitude is amazing — you are so brave and strong. I know you will be okay.”

I was shocked. No one ever told me that staying in bed was an option. And as she dug into my tight hamstrings, I cried some more.

On my way home, I realized that I’d never given up hope. As devastated and confused as I was, trying to navigate the beginning of my career and a brain disorder diagnosis at the same time, I never once considered staying in bed. I had not given up hope.

My neurologist agreed to wait for six months before insisting on medication. As he explained, it’s very important to get the seizures to stop because every time you have one seizure, you are more likely to have another.

I heard horror stories of side effects — chemical castration and zombie brain, early onset Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cancer. I was afraid of the drugs. I figured I didn’t need them, and I crossed my fingers. I managed to stay seizure free for five months and 25 days, then I had a second seizure also at 4am in the morning.

This time, my friend the physician came to see me in the ER, her eyes big with worry. I was confused and emotional, as I often am after a seizure. We agreed there was no way around the drugs. And dutifully I swallowed the dark blue pills before I left the ER.

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It took a couple of days before my short-term memory disappeared. I’d meet with my editor, take notes, and go back to my computer unable to recall what I was supposed to write about. And I was so tired. Just so tired.

But I stopped waking up every hour at night, like I’d done since I was a kid. I stopped having the weird nightmares we now know were most likely small seizures. My highly active brain — perhaps with a penchant for ADHD — grew sluggish yet more organized and predictable. I decided that it was perhaps no longer trying to kill me.

It’s very weird when a drug changes how you feel. I tried to relax into the change, reminding myself that this was good change, it meant no more seizures. I still slept 12 hours a night, if allowed, and I felt numb. Three months later, the neurologist suggested I try another drug. Dutifully I swallowed the white and orange pills. And slowly, surely, my brain started working again. I felt more like myself, alert, and active. I could write and remember things. Six months later, I got my driving privileges back, and could finally start my journalism career.

Today, more than 20 years later, I live a good life with epilepsy. I still take the same drugs we settled on back then — and they continue to work. I’ve traveled a lot including a monthlong trip to Lesotho on my own as a newspaper writing coach. I told my Lesotho colleagues of the seizures, and they explained their traditional belief that people with seizures are talking to the gods. I liked that.

I ride horses and swim, go on road trips and fly overseas. But even I have a limit: I once quit an optometrist who kept telling me about how his nephew with epilepsy had a seizure and drowned in the shower. Every time I went

in, he told me that story, until I decided to never return.

The fact of the matter is that seizures can kill you in a variety of ways. You can choke, or stroke, or have a heart attack. Or you can fall during a seizure and hit your head. And there is this thing called Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) which kills more than one in 1,000 people with epilepsy. This is not a brain disorder to be taken lightly, and in my case, there is no cure. In some ways, this makes me more grateful for every day I wake up to.

I’ve had seizures since, but mostly in the early morning hours. We still don’t know why. I managed to have my last seizure at a grocery store. I fell into a cooler, broke my glasses, cut my face and bent some ribs. I also scared the living daylights out of one of my best friends, who was there with me.

And that’s the worst part for me: how frightening it is to watch me convulse and pass out. I don’t wish that on anybody. It’s a powerless feeling.

I realize I’m incredibly fortunate that my seizures responded to the drugs. That’s why I talk about my epilepsy, write about it, and freely share my story. I do so because by epilepsy standards, I’m highly functioning — I have a career, run my own business, I can do a lot of things that people with uncontrollable seizures can’t do.

I pulled through a devastating diagnosis, and it wasn’t always easy. Today, I try to share that strength with people who are newly diagnosed with epilepsy. I listen and reassure, I encourage and comfort. I help them understand that they are not alone — and that they, too, will find a way to live a good and rewarding life with a slightly different brain.

And no: the marriage didn’t last. «



Pia Hallenberg is a cybersecurity writer who lives in Spokane, WA.

Born and raised in Denmark, she moved to the United States in 1991.

Pia spent 20 years as a local newspaper journalist before starting her own writing and PR business in the middle of the COVID pandemic.

She now works remotely for cyber and tech clients based in the United States and Europe.

Truly bilingual and bicultural, she’s contemplating writing a book about her 30 years in the United States.

MODEL Pia Hallenberg
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paint patience and

No artistic intention. Just love to paint.

I don’t describes myself as an artist in the traditional sense, but rather a passionate painter who loves to copy photos with paint and patience. While I strive for likeness in my portraits, I do not aim to add anything new or inventive to my work. The process of painting is what I enjoy most — to me the process is way more important than the final result.

I am particularly drawn to female faces. I use the alla prima technique and love to work quickly, usually completing a portrait in two to three hours. I typically work in sketchbooks, which I find intimate and personal, but I have also started painting on canvas and hardboard for the 2022 virtual exhibition “Art in Times of Crisis.” which can be found at Kuvik Galerie.

I studied visual communication at the Braunschweig University of Art. Besides painting portraits for fun, I work as a designer and managing director for the design company Logoform in Germany.

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One night last August, I had an evolutionary experience. During introductions at a meet-and-greet for The Rocky Horror Show cast and production team, I introduced my pronouns as “he/them” for the first time out loud to anyone other than my husband Alex. This is real self-talk that has been reverberating in my spirit for awhile, not just some trend I’m jumping on.

I’m sure that people in the room who know me well were a bit taken aback. One friend asked me about it in the hall afterwards. It was liberating to talk about. Thank you, Alana J Shepherd for being my friend and an advocate for people’s agency and evolution.

Now, why did I feel compelled to add “them” to my pronouns? The reasons are many, but they are simple (in my head, at least!)

While he was alive, my friend Paul J Watts helped me realize that I can present myself however makes ME happy, and that was revolutionary for me... I’d always been outgoing (publicly, at least), but I’d never liked my sense (or lack of) style when it came to my vestiges. Paul encouraged me to explore my sense of self, and the first time I wore a skirt felt like my first visit to a gay bar back in 1989. Not only was it comfortable physically, it felt comfortable spiritually. Like I finally wasn’t putting stock in others’ opinions of my presentation. Wow. Mind-blowing.

I like being a man. I love that the most important person in my life is also a man. I enjoy the fact that my closest friends are not male, but I revel in my

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connections with my male friends as well. I don’t look at the world in blackand-white absolutes. I don’t just “think outside the box,” I like to break the box down and toss it in the recycling bin. They/them is a way for people who do not fit into — or who denounce — the gender binary. There are probably other reasons people choose they/them, she/them, and he/them as well. I feel like the denouncement of the binary fits me at this point in my life. I want to be liberated from absolutes. I want to encourage others to be liberated as well. I feel like the THEY is the bridge to my extended self while recognizing that HE is who I am in body. Pronouns are any of a small set of words (such as I, she, he, you, it, we, or they) in a language that are used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases and whose referents are named or understood in the context (<<<google definition).

In truth, I’d rather ditch them completely if it means that EVERYONE can be, feel, and present as their authentic self. But for now, “he/they” seems the most comfortable for me.

I am not easily offended. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to offend me ever. You can use whatever pronouns you like for me without fear of me feeling hurt or less-than. Truly. It does not matter to my sense of self how you choose to refer to me. That is true liberation, in my mind. But when asked, I’ll be using he/they moving forward — at least until the next evolution of my self presents itself to me.

Be kind to one another. Give each other grace. Stick up for those who need you. Forgive others and forgive yourself. Stand against prejudice and injustice. Love one another. Can that be the goal?

Love to you all. «

Jeremy Whittington is an award-winning scenic designer, artist, writer, and performer. They were awarded the Washington State Arts & Heritage Luminary award from Governor Inslee for keeping theater alive during the pandemic. He is the Artistic Director at Stage Left Theater in downtown Spokane, Washington and the Board Chair of Odyssey Youth Movement, Spokane’s LGBTQIA+ teen drop-in center. Recently, Jeremy won Best Scenic Design in Washington State at the 2023 Kaleidoscope Competition, and the AACT Region IX (WA, ID, OR, AK) awards for Best Scenic and Sound Designs. They married their best friend, Alex on June 4 of this year. (See the couple on the back cover.)

To learn more about Jeremy, listen to Beneath Your Beautiful podcast Episode 34

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Smolensk Lakeland - the land of forests and lakes. People have lived in this place since ancient times - the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks passed through here. Wherever you look, everywhere pastures, fields and villages. But the Second World War swept through, first from west to east, then from east to west. Most of the roads and villages remained only on old maps, the trees reclaimed the land of fields and pastures. Scattered settlements will not come out of desolation, young people rarely leave for the cities, people live, grow old and die here. This is the land of my ancestors, I came here dozens of times to touch the land where only a memory remains of its people.

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Georgy Bezborodov is an architect and photographer. Composition, volume, light, perspective, painting, and graphics in photography are greatly aided by his knowledge of architecture.

Georgy is working in art-reportage, creating an

ideal world from a documentary depiction of the most magical moments of life, when unpredictable randomness is added to the author’s plan. In order to get just a good professional photo, it’s enough to do everything very accurately “from the head”, but in order to catch the magic, this is not enough.

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George creates all the necessary conditions for work, then gives vent to “chance” — those unpredictable moments that cannot be foreseen — how the wind moved the branch, how suddenly the model turned, how suddenly a flare appeared.

PHOTOGRAPHER Georgy Bezborodov

All filming is thoughtless, documentary, live. Photographer, member of the Union of ArtPhotographers of Russia, adviser to the chairman of the Russian Ecological Society, member of the Russian Geographical Society.

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I woke when the Raven’s Claw broke my skin

Ran when the Bull

Snorted behind me

Fell exhausted beneath The Wren’s clever song

Woke again to find the Rabbit laughing, the great Boar patiently sniffing me Rose on shaky legs to Follow the Wolf, hear the Cries of Hawk, sky-arrows into My dawning heart.

Love and Bruises

I ran out without my Kevlar

(yes, I’ve been told a million times)

Tripped immediately over a pile of sins in the dark

Found all my friends holding hands around a musician’s grave Quietly passing a bottle

We know what we’re mourning, and it’s Not who we once were

I regret nothing but the Long acceptance of lies

I fight bare-knuckled

Beauty and burning, they’re

Both mine - my very own I may never sleep, but I’m Still here, covered in Love and bruises.

Rose Wildwood Journey

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All the wide sky stood silent

While the 747 nose-dived

Hit the lake

Slowly sank

…and then returned

Bubbles of desperation

Muffled screams

Trapped, trapped

I climbed out; fragile


Chest-deep in bloody waves

The only one.

I can pull this jet to shore

Use the water

Use the water

Use the water

Leaning, aching

Straining, shaking

But it’s moving

That was years ago, and Yet my back feels broken My knees buckle


And still the sky is silent

How many times must I

Tell this story before It feels told? Before I feel heard?

I can’t forget that blank sky

Can’t be un-disillusioned.



I will help, I will care, I will rescue, I will love.

I will BE LOVE.

No shaking victim will see that blankness in my eyes

I would die first.

Shore up my failing strength

Deep with meditation

Peaceful with pain endured

I will be the beauty, the Gentle fortress, the

Avenging angel, because I TRUST IN MYSELF.


Rose Wildwood grew up in the cool, misty forests of the Pacific Northwest. She is fascinated by the ancient Norse and Celtic cultures of her ancestors and many of her writings reflect this spiritual path. She has composed music in these styles for films and tv shows, and belongs to an order of Celtic Druids.

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to me. I would spend mornings in the shower begging that God may take my life if I could not change it on my own. Wondering if those early pieces stolen from me had made me into this monster. I ran from myself, ran as far as I could. I tried to outrun my own voice, as I could feel it threatening to break free.

Life will not allow you to run forever. Truth aches for the light like a newly sprouted tree. Ready or not, it will burst free. How do you advocate for yourself, when you were never allowed to know who you really were? The cracks began to show and quickly moved to fissures. I began having panic attacks, refusing to eat - I don’t think at the time I even connected the two. Truth or death, freedom or captivity. There were so many more moments that led to the inevitable, but there aren’t enough pages to make it all fit. The day finally came, and the world stopped. For a split second it felt like time paused long enough

for me to simply take a breath, and then everything I knew fell apart. I never wanted to come out, I don’t think I would have if life had not conspired against me. Thank goodness life

So it began, living in my car in the parking lot of the gas station where I worked. This shy and timid baby gay. I couldn’t even say the word when I first stepped out of that proverbial closet. I had a choice to make; life had flipped the script completely, I could hide in the wreckage or I could find my voice. That voice that had been screaming to get out, that

For all the things that had kept me shy, quieted my tongue, hid my truths, I was also taught to care for others, to cultivate empathy and embrace righteous anger for the mistreatment of others. Meant to shackle me, it was these very qualities that served to set me free. Though I could not yet care enough about myself to stand, I could justify fighting for others. If this was so hard on me, what would it feel like to someone else? I may not have understood how to value myself, but I would be damned if I was going to understand a world that disowned their children, accepted violence against fellow humans based on the ridiculousness of separatism.

A fire began to grow in my belly, and that fire informed my newly discovered voice. I went from a whisper to a roar - it was like a switch had flipped in me and I could not stop.

I took over leadership of my college’s GayStraight Alliance, I marched in streets against Fred Phelps and his church of hate, I wrote articles in newspapers, I sued doctors for refusing to help gay patients. Apparently I was trying to make up for decades of silence by

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To learn more about Jonathan, listen to Beneath Your Beautiful podcast Episode 117

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Autism Advocacy Journey

As a person living with autism, Sydney Kresbach became interested in advocating for people with autism after completing the Alaska LEND Without Walls Program in 2017. That same year she was hired as a Senate Page and became interested in governmental issues regarding people with disabilities like herself. She was also selected by the Governor to serve on the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education. While serving on the council, she had the opportunity to speak at the Key Campaign, Disability Pride, and Power and Privilege Symposiums. She gave public testimony about autism challenges during the Health and Social Services Legislative Committee meeting, and on her final day as a page, Sydney shared her story on the Senate Floor and received a standing ovation. «

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PHOTOGRAPHER Hara Allison MODEL Sydney Krebsbach

In 2021 I moved from Alaska with my parents to Spokane, Washington.

This was a difficult transition for me - I had to leave all my friends and a job I loved. I spent the summer after the move networking and met some amazing people. They have become great friends and have provided a lot of support in helping me succeed here in my new environment.

After a long and grueling search, I finally found an employer who would give me the opportunity to prove myself as productive. Hired by SNAP, a non-profit agency in Spokane, I joined their Energy Assistance team. It is a very flexible position, and I have great supervisors who allow me to take time off for some of the advocacy projects I’m involved in.

Some of those projects include serving on the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council, and the advisory board for the I/DD Champions Network, a collaborative group of agency providers and self-advocates who work for policy and systemic changes in Eastern Washington. In addition, I was hired by the University of Washington to work on their ECHO Autism Project, which assists in training diagnosticians and explains the lived experience of someone with autism.

In September 2022, I was recognized as the first ever Self Advocate Rising Star Award winner by The Arc of Spokane. My goal is to work for inclusion, change, and support for people with autism and other disabilities.

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I found myself right here where I have always been beneath the veils of the façades of all the people I tried to be … and so here I am in the midst of my own truth unapologetically myself - scars, flaws, and all I stand firm roots buried deep in the rich soil of my experiences weathered by the storms of life embracing the depths of my truth I am able to rise like a phoenix from the ashes stronger and more resilient than ever before

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PHOTOGRAPHER, ARTIST AND WRITER Danielle Thurman Trina Roberts
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The HER. Company, by Danielle Thurman Trina Roberts is a passionate endeavor aimed at inspiring, motivating, and empowering individuals to live their best lives. Comprised of three elements — HER. Pen, HER. Artwork, and HER. Lens, each entity serves as a distinct avenue for creative expression. At its core, The HER. Company is about living a life full of purpose, passion, and joy. It is a space where individuals can connect, create, and grow together. It is a community that values authenticity, vulnerability, and honesty.

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Grace’s gifts

Six weeks before our baby died, our two-year-old daughter, Sophia, wandered off from an Easter brunch at a friend’s home. After her father watched her walk from inside the house toward the backyard where I was sitting, Sophia must have turned left instead of right down the stairs heading down the long driveway. In my mind’s eye, I can see her looking left and then right before setting off on the walkway leading to the local park - and toward the busiest street on the South Hill, cars racing away from the downtown traffic.

She walked, unbeknownst to any of us, for at least two blocks, wandering around the mostly quiet neighborhood on an early Easter afternoon.

One young couple happened to be sitting on their front porch and noticed Sophia crossing the street near their home. I learned later, it was the wife who first saw her, looking around to see if there was a parent nearby. When she saw no one, she stepped onto the sidewalk, picked Sophia up and started talking to her.

I don’t know what was shared between them, but I imagine Sophia, who wasn’t necessarily shy but also wasn’t a fan of strangers, just stared at her as if to say, ’you are not my mother.’ This lovely couple took her door to door, asking neighbors if this was their child? Did they know who she was or where she belonged?

After knocking on several doors, they appeared in our friends’ backyard with my daughter and asked, “Is this your child?”

“Yes, thank you. She’s mine,” I said, somewhat confused to see my daughter on a stranger’s hip, though I assumed this couple must be late arriving guests who had met Sophia inside the house. My husband must have asked them to bring her to me outside, I thought to myself. Horror seeped into my being, though, as they explained how they found her, and where. Unable to be consoled by the well-meaning comments of our friends, we left the party early. It happened to us once and did I tell you about V. getting lost in the grocery store? Everyone has a lost child story.

That evening, as I laid in bed with our sleeping daughter, I stroked her face and rubbed my growing belly and said a prayer to protect the baby inside of me. “Two months,” I whispered, “two months” as the baby returned a kick toward my bladder.

If this were a fairy tale, I’d be able to tell you how my wish came true. How I was able to stop time, go to the hospital, and ask them to

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remove our perfectly healthy daughter a few weeks early so that she would live. But this is not a fairy tale.

Two weeks after Sophia walked off, I read “Terrific Mother” by Lorrie Moore. In the short story’s first two paragraphs, the reader quickly learns that Adrienne, the protagonist, asks to hold her friend’s baby, and shortly thereafter loses her balance and falls backward. As a result, the baby cracks her head on the concrete and dies a few days later.

It is a terrible way to start a story — telling the reader that a baby dies. What could be left to tell? That Adrienne hides in her apartment for seven months without leaving? That she never forgives herself for killing the baby? That she feels outside of her body and outside of the world for a really long time?

A month later, our baby, Grace, died. Like Adrienne in the story, I retreated to my bedroom full of a kind of sadness and shame unlike any other I’d ever experienced.

My own father died when I was just five years old after a five-year battle with cancer. Our family was left changed in ways that wouldn’t become apparent for many, many years. All of us, my mother and three brothers and I, hid our grief from one another. We wore a variety of masks around each other and then dealt with grief in our own ways — in my teen years mine often went up my nose, or manifested itself in ways that were neither kind to my body nor kind to my heart.

“I cannot do grief like I did in my childhood,” I whispered to my husband. So, our two-year-old daughter and five-year-old

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Sarah and Grace

son sat in the hospital room with us and met their dead sister. I wasn’t going to hide her death or my grief. They reluctantly touched her arm and kissed her cheek. They stroked my hair and said I looked sad. I told them I was sad. And I was going to be sad for a very long time.

Why couldn’t I do what a mother is supposed to do to protect her child? Why couldn’t I save her? Why couldn’t I have been the one to die instead?

These questions and more haunted me in the early years after Grace died. Like most mothers have done, I blamed myself.

I became that parent I feared — the one whose eyes revealed such a deep sadness that other parents didn’t want to be around me. I wondered if I had become contagious, if coming near me meant somehow that another child could be harmed. I became afraid of myself.

I wasn’t unfamiliar with grief. I have been grieving almost all my life. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel sad, when I wasn’t missing someone, when I didn’t feel out of place from the rest of the world.

Our family changed after Grace’s death in ways that became apparent immediately.

We cried together, often. I didn’t hide behind my sorrow, though I sometimes hid in my closet because being in a small dark space made me feel safe. We weren’t perfect - I snapped at my kids before I recognized that yelling at them was a coping mechanism for me to deal with my overwhelming emotions. I couldn’t always articulate how I felt because I didn’t always know, but I tried. We tried. And we repaired. And each of us apologized. We muddled our way through year one and year two, year five, year ten.

It’s been 20 years since Grace died. Twenty impossibly hard years. And 20 incredibly beautiful years. Grace’s death reconnected me to my grief for my father in ways that allowed me to return to my childhood and examine my feelings. She taught me how to forgive myself for disliking the person I once was. Grace taught me that my grief was okay to manifest — even if it appeared in the grocery store or the school carpool line when I saw a child about the age Grace should have been. She taught me that I could experience a new depth to my joy, having experienced such deep sorrow. That joy was okay to feel again even if my grief brought a complexity to all my emotions.

Today, 20 years after Grace and 50 years from my father’s death, I still marvel at the person I’ve allowed myself to become, amazed that I can hold such a vastness of grief while experiencing such happiness. Not only am I proud of who I have become, but I am filled with awe at the kindness and tenderness that my own children exhibit with other beings. My husband and I have raised three

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compassionate children. All three of them speak to the variety of emotions they feel at different times. They speak in a language that was inaccessible to me in my own childhood.

That is the gift Grace has given all of us. She has allowed us to more fully become human. She has given us the ability to feel in ways that we were unable to feel before Grace.

But here’s the thing: it’s not my place to tell someone that there will be gifts rising out of someone’s grief. Nor is it something someone could have told me at the time even though

they tried. It was never their place to say that. The gratitude I feel toward Grace is immense, but I didn’t feel that way for a long time. And I still miss her. Always.

Grief has a life of its own, and if we are privileged enough to enter a space when someone else is grieving, our job as a witness to someone’s pain is just that — to witness it, to sit with it, to be with them.

And maybe, just maybe, in allowing ourselves to witness another person grieving, we might learn how to better grieve ourselves. «

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Sarah Bain is a writer and a Chief of Staff for Zen Caregiving Project. She works and writes in Spokane, Washington where she lives with her family, two dogs and three cats. Bain family 10 years later

The older we get, the memory goes…

I dumpster-dive in our local college town to remove items to keep plastics out of the landfills, It’s amazing what these kids will throw away! Last year I found a Louis Vuitton purse — an authentic one! We donate these items to the local thrift stores so they will be reused, and do our part to keep plastic out of the landfill.

My name is Margaret but I go by Meg, and I live in Pullman, Washington. I am the cofounder for the Pullman Schools Pantry Program, co-founder of the Pullman Arts Foundation, and Director of Camp Invention, the National Inventors Hall of Fame S.T.E.A.M. Camp for Elementary and Middle School kids. In my former life, I worked at WSU for many years in Wheat Genetics — plant genetics and breeding. Diagnosed in 2015 with metastatic breast cancer, I made a conscious decision to spend more time with my boys, volunteer in my community, and put as much love, joy and kindness out there in the world.

I am currently the big 5-0, and with my diagnosis, a lot of things changed. Probably one of the most significant decisions I made was to no longer allow my childhood traumas rule my life. I realized that life is just too short to be miserable, hurt and sad. It was a lifelong quest to find joy and peace in my life - I was always seeking it, but I could never find it. It wasn’t until my diagnosis I finally realized that joy and peace weren’t things to be found, they had always been within me. I would say that Cancer is in no way a blessing, but some of the lessons along the way surely have been. I am now fully ME, or as I like to say, Meg

2.0, the NEW Meg. I had been in an abusive marriage, a result of my childhood traumas, and not knowing anything different. After I was diagnosed with cancer, I had to change that, too. The body keeps score, holds on to those traumas, and those things can wreak havoc on your health and your entire being. I am a very empathetic and sensitive person, so those things affect me deeply. I had to make changes for myself if I am to be around to see my kids grow up — I have three amazing boys. My most rewarding job is being a mom, and I wanted to be there for my boys as long as I could.

It’s a little bit of a process to get to the decision “I’m going to be joyful”. When you first receive a cancer diagnosis, there’s this volcanic eruption of emotions and feelings and anger. I come from a lot of childhood and adult trauma, and in my mind, I was thinking “This is SO not fair!” It took a lot of time (and therapy) to work through those feelings. I finally came to the realization I could just keep talking about how I was going to make changes and find that joy, but nobody but me was going to make it happen. Going through chemotherapy, 58 rounds of radiation, surgeries, healing, all while raising three

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When you first receive a cancer diagnosis, there’s this volcanic eruption of emotions and feelings and anger.

To learn more about Meg, listen to Beneath Your Beautiful podcast Episode 116

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PHOTOGRAPHER Hara Allison MODEL Meg Vigil Gollnick

young children you realize, “Yeah, I guess I am really a pretty strong woman.” And I realized I could make the changes I needed to make for myself, too. I was always that martyr, sacrificing for my children, my husband, always putting myself last.

I have come to realize I can’t do all those things for others if I don’t have a little peace for myself. I wish other mothers could learn this earlier than I did - I wish I had known this when I was younger. Unfortunately, many of us don’t learn this until it is almost a little too late. I would have saved myself a lot of heartache if I had learned this earlier. But no looking back. Meg 2.0 looks ahead.

It’s really about loving yourself. Why is it that we are in our 50s before we learn that to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves? I have made it my mission, any time I see younger moms who have that “lost” look about them, to try and mentor them. I feel a motherly responsibility to teach them what I have learned over time. Because you know what? We’re all in this together. Just because you’re successful in your life and have a successful family, doesn’t mean you’re any better than anyone else. Growing up with a narcissistic mother, I decided I wasn’t going to be that way early on. I’ve always felt that I wanted to be a cyclebreaker, and a wonderful mother. I have been a good mother — have I been a perfect mother? No, but I have been a GOOD mother. I want others to know that’s attainable, and we can support each other in this. You can have it all, just not at the same time.

I was one of twelve children, born in Worland, Wyoming. A big, Catholic family, we moved to Spokane when I was around five. My dad had been a farmer, but was not in the best health, so my parents decided to move to the city, where he went to work for Burlington Northern Railways.

One of our first introductions to neighbors included a couple who lived across the alley

from our family. They were empty-nesters, a husband and wife with two adult daughters who were out of the home, starting their own homes and living their own lives. This couple seemed to take a shining to me, “spoiled” me the way grandparents would spoil their grandchildren. They took me under their wing, teaching me gardening, gave me gifts, took me and one of my sisters on trips with them, but for whatever reason, they really kind of focused on me. I am not sure exactly how it all transpired, but I was at some point invited to live with them. I’ve asked my mom, but she can’t really tell me how it happened, what the conversation was like. I asked after I was diagnosed with cancer, “Mom, why did you give me to the neighbors?” Her simple answer was, “Because you wanted to go.” I was six years old.

I guess I was thinking at first how fun it would be - “I’m going to go spend the night, they’re going to give me toys and candy and attention!” Being the middle of twelve children, attention was at a premium. I can remember getting hugs from my dad, but don’t remember getting them from my mom. I remember missing my siblings after I moved in, but I didn’t miss the chaos. At our home I didn’t have my own bed, I slept with my two sisters. There were always fights over food and clothes and toys and space. That also affected me deeply. It was calming to go to the neighbor’s house. They were older, and I looked to them as one would grandparents. At the time, I’m sure my parents didn’t think too deeply about this. With twelve kids, I guess they were just grateful to have one less mouth to feed, or one less kid to worry about.

Unbeknownst to anyone, that grandfatherly figure abused me sexually. The abuse continued until I was 13 or 14. I remember the point where I told him “If you touch me again, I’m going to tell.” I think his wife knew, but didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to think that was real. I do know that when I

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was about ten and he was still trying to give me baths, she finally said “that’s enough of that, she’s too old for you to give her a bath.” I don’t know of any time that anyone questioned why I went to live with them, or if I was being abused, or what was going on.

I may never know if their children were also abused - as a child it didn’t ever come to my mind. As an adult, though, recalling some of their behaviors, I think maybe so. Especially the older daughter, who was very jealous of me and cruel to me. After their parents passed away, neither of these two women had any contact with me ever again. I’d lived with their parents, nursed them during cancer, took care of their home, their garden, etc. And for their daughters to no longer have contact with me at all is puzzling. Their older daughter may have struggled with depression, or her mental health in general. I can’t say for sure, but that’s my impression.

It took about seven years of therapy to reconcile my shame over the “secret” and not telling anyone. Back in the seventies, it was still a shameful thing, you don’t tell anyone. You don’t have to be a sensitive and empathetic child for something like this to change you forever. It affected my whole life. I dealt with the shame for a long time, but that’s the MO, they groom, they make you feel shame, so you WON’T tell people. His daughters do not know about the abuse. My family doesn’t know about my abuse. I have told friends, my therapist, but no family members. I never told my mother. She struggled with anxiety (in the seventies they called it “a nervous breakdown”) and I didn’t want to burden her with it. As adults, I feel now that our relationship has reversed, like I was the adult and she was the child, and that’s not a good position to be in. Even now, I know that potentially some of my family members may hear or see this, but I recognize it would be a way for them to hear it and for me to not have to tell it eleven times. But my hope is

that my mom won’t hear this, because it could cause an emotional crisis, and I don’t want that for her.

My mother and I don’t have a close relationship - we don’t call each other to chat, and really there’s no reason for me to tell her. She’s almost 80 years old, and I don’t want her to have a mental health issue about this. There won’t be any reconciliation or healing to come from it. I’ve dealt with it and moved past it. I have forgiven her for me. It’s not a pleasant thing for me to talk about. That’s not something I want to do. I wonder if at some point my siblings thought something was going on, but they never said anything about it. They always said, “You’re the lucky one, because you live with them you have your own room,” and so they shamed me about that. “You got everything you wanted.” But I never told them the price I paid for it. I guarantee they would not have wanted to switch places with me.

My dad died when I was 14. He struggled with alcoholism — he was a kind individual, and loving, but he struggled. I saw that even as a child, and I think about it in different ways now that I am an adult. I think now my dad died of a broken heart - my mother was not a kind and loving wife. The time after his death was difficult for us kids. I’m sure it was difficult for my mother, too, alone in the world with twelve kids. I had older siblings who were able to pitch in and help, and we just all pitched in and helped each other.

Although to this day I’m close to a lot of my siblings, I do wonder what would have happened had they known what was happening to me. I want to think they would understand, or that they did think about it, but just didn’t know how to ask me. It wasn’t easy for any of us. We were food insecure, we were poor, my mom was pretty absent, off with boyfriends, absolutely emotionally unavailable, and I felt like my younger siblings (there were five younger than me)

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needed me to help take care of them. I thought to myself, “why did I stay at the neighbors, when I potentially could have left?” They let my parents borrow money, after my dad passed they gave my family money, they gave them food….to feed eleven kids is no easy task. I felt like I HAD to stay. I had no other place to go — I would have been sleeping downstairs on the living room carpet and I truly felt like I couldn’t go back.

My childhood had ended long before my father passed, but when he died, I truly felt like my childhood was gone — I was cleaning, cooking, taking care of the house, doing all these adult things. That really was a significant thing in my life. I think about how I could turn something so negative and so hurtful into something cycle-breaking. As a mother myself I have tried so hard to be a good mother and dedicated my life to helping children (aka the Pullman Pantry project). A great deal of my volunteer work has been in the schools. This is probably because I feel as if someone may have been a little kinder, asked some questions, why was I living at the neighbor’s house, maybe some things would have been different for me. I have finally pulled it together, and I wonder why it takes so long to get there? Why does this happen at

fifty, I wonder?

I also have my fair share of adult traumas — my youngest brother, who struggled with mental health issues, committed suicide. My youngest son at five months had a traumatic eye injury and lost sight in one eye. When that happened, I thought that was the worst thing that could have happened to me, you know? There’s nothing like the fear you feel when one of your kids are sick or injured. But it was four years later that I was diagnosed with cancer, and I still think his injury was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

My cancer was found after a routine mammogram - they found a spot, and wanted to do a biopsy. The lump quickly grew from ½ cm to 2 cms, so they knew it was fast-growing, but didn’t know if it was benign or cancerous. The radiologist who performed the ultrasound said he couldn’t be sure, but said it looked very suspicious. “I’m concerned — 80% sure that it is cancerous.” Then you get thrown into the whole loop of oncology. Here in Pullman, WA we don’t have a lot of resources, and I had to go to Spokane, WA (about an hour and a half away) for all the surgeries, treatments, etc.

It took about a year of radiation treatments, chemo, I lost my hair, all the things. It was about a year after that my metastatic diagnosis

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We can’t always have happiness. But joy and peace come from within. No matter what the situation, you can always find joy and peace.

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came. Metatastic means the cancer cells from your original site have traveled to other sites. They are in your blood, and are causing tumors wherever they land. I currently have one on my third rib, sixth rib, and my left hip. And there’s a small one in one of my lymph nodes on my left side. We know this happens when some cells are left in your lymph nodes after treatment. Because chemo can bring your immune system down, it’s easy for new cancers to take hold. And even some of the treatments used to treat cancer can CAUSE cancer.

I was originally given 3-5 years to live. Let that sink in. My boys were at the time in 8th grade, 5th grade, and kindergarten. That was a really difficult time for me, my kids, and extremely difficult for our family. At one point I needed to go in for another surgery to get some better margins on my original cancer site, and my sisters talked my mom into coming down to see me before surgery. Just before I went into the OR, my mom leaned over and whispered into my ear, “I’m sorry if I ever hurt you. I’m sorry”. People have no idea how freeing it is, and how all of those walls that go up over your lifetime can just come down with someone saying, “I’m sorry if I hurt you.” That’s all that it took for me to forgive her for all of it. For giving me away to the neighbors, for not being there

for me, for all of it. I’ve forgiven her and have moved past it. The best part is that I get a second chance at having that mother/child relationship, with my own children.

Right now, I am past the treatments, I take a chemo pill very day and I go in every three moths for a scan or infusion. I take an antiestrogen pill because my cancer is estrogensensitive — it grows in the presence of estrogen. I want to tell my story so that others don’t have to go through what I went through, or that they may find strength in knowing that there’s someone else out there with the same story. Reach out, get therapy, reach out to a friend or a clergy member, because life is too short to live a traumatic and unfulfilled life without joy and peace. It truly is.

I hear people say all the time, “I just want to be happy.” Happiness is situational, though. We can’t always have happiness. But joy and peace come from within. No matter what the situation, you can always find joy and peace. You can’t always find happiness. I am determined to put more joy and lout in the world, especially with our kids, because they need that. It really does take a village. I want to be a community builder, for our kids, for me, for you, for my kids! We need to come back together as a community, and the way we can do that is to heal our traumas, our hurts, our hearts - heal our hearts. «

Before becoming a professional volunteer, Meg spent 13 years as the Laboratory Director for the Wheat Genetics and Breeding Program at WSU. She is now retired.

After a successful three years of helping food insecure children in the Pullman School District and beyond, Meg saw an additional need to help service entire food insecure families. She now

organizes and plans food rescue events and helps facilitate food/toiletries/toys that get delivered directly to homes via community volunteers. Meg enjoys working with these families and sees the food rescue program as a vital resource to help our in need children and families in our community. Meg is also dedicated to using art as a community builder and social justice changer, and bring more of the arts to her community.

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Meg Gollnick is the Co-founder of the Pullman Schools Pantry Program, founder of the Pullman Food Rescue Program and Co-Founder of the Pullman Arts Foundation.


MODEL Polina Tatarenko

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Dana Bellefeuille

The Village Bakery was created to help fill the gap in our community with jobs, and to be a shining beacon of light, an example in our community of what is possible. As a child with a learning disability myself, all I wanted was to be included. I have a memory of a friend I visited once as a teenager; she was telling me of a book about kids with special needs and about God giving them to special parents. I wished to myself that day that I could be that special to God. Years later, He would bless me with two children with special needs. Surrounded by a special needs community as they grew up, we were constantly working to protect them from the world, praying that they would be accepted and that they would find their place and their purpose.

Our children are involved with programs that will help them develop life skills and provide much needed job training to help them find gainful employment. At a family presentation, one of them highlighted the companies that partnered with them, helping to provide these services. I couldn’t help but notice how short the list was. My heart broke, because I knew personally the challenge of being accepted and how hard it is for people in our special needs community.

I met this beautiful young woman with Down’s syndrome, who was giving a presentation about her dream to work in a coffee shop or bakery, when the lightbulb when off. In an instant, I knew what my mission in life was meant to be. I decided right then to take my 20 years of self-taught pastry experience and open a bakery! My husband and I took action, and The Village Bakery was born. We called it that, because it takes a village to raise a special needs child, and this work can’t be done alone.

During the time of COVID and downturned economy, everyone was losing staff, and sadly, many in our special needs community lost their jobs first. My husband and I have made it our mission to show the world the good that can come from providing jobs to those often looked over for employment opportunities. That your life, and the lives of those workers will be enriched and changed forever. I have found providing a positive workplace is a matter taking time to learn their language, to understanding what’s important to them. And I have been fortunate enough to stumble upon the most loyal employees - the ones who will always come in when asked, that will do anything for you and strive to be the best at each and every task set before them. The ones

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There are twenty-five thousand people in our small town that have special needs or disabilities.


MODEL Dana Bellefeuille

To nominate someone who has made a difference in your life or your community, please send an email to: hara @ BeneathYourBeautiful org

To learn more about Dana, listen to Beneath Your Beautiful podcast Episode 115

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who don’t ever want to let you down.

A parent gave me the greatest compliment a couple of weeks ago - she said her family has witnessed so many miracles in the past couple of months, “and you need to know you are one of them!” But I feel as though we are the ones who get a front row seat to the daily miracles happening around us.

Our mission is about inclusion, giving everyone the opportunity to find their place and be happy, productive, contributing adults in our community. Along with employment skills, the other extremely important aspect of our mission is the social and emotional benefits to inclusion. Many times, special needs people are isolated, and they have a hard time connecting with others. We offer an environment of belonging to a team where marketable job skills are acquired, and where

making friends and developing supportive relationships is possible.

What they are being taught, however, means so much more to all of us. Parents reach out and tell me how our mission has given their adult child confidence, meaning, purpose and value. Community members are inspired by what they see, and they are inspired to bring more diversity to their own places of employment.

We honesty were not prepared for the good that came with opening the bakery. We are seeing firsthand what happens when you provide a place of acceptance, meeting people where they are and providing a space of safe learning. They experience self-worth, confidence, and the opportunity to show all the world what they can do if given the chance. Speaking personally as a parent of

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two children with special needs, I can tell you, that’s all we want for our kids - just to be given the chance. Our son with autism was given that chance through a program like ours. As parents, we are forever grateful for the chance our son was given. What happens between the walls of our little bakery will change you, just as it changes the lives of those who work there. We want to invite you along on our journey to a new world of inclusion and love, with a sweetness that puts a smile on your face, warmth in your heart and a determination to spread the good. «

We all have our challenges growing up, and I am convinced our personalities, as well as our future vocations, are developed as we attempt to resolve those challenges within ourselves.

My daughter, Dana Bellefeuille, founded The Village Bakery as a result of her lifelong challenges; first dealing with dyslexia and its stigmas, then becoming a mother of 2 special needs children with challenges of their own. In an effort to encourage her own children to adopt a positive attitude (because the alternative is unacceptable), Dana and her husband Todd have been leaders in their community and lead by example, showing how to overcome with grace the challenges our lives can bring.

As Dana’s mother, I was commended for her upbringing. Surely, she is the way

she is because of the way I raised her! I wholeheartedly deny this - Dana has a higher power motivating her, and I want to grow up to be just like her! There’s so much I have learned from her. As the Louis Armstrong song goes — “They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know. “

A mother can only hope that the little she’s contributed to her children’s lives will make a difference in the world. Dana’s positive attitude is infectious, like the yeast in her delicious cinnamon roll dough! It gets passed to everyone she comes in contact with, and they in turn pass it on to others. She is proof that life is what you make it. She also learned that she cannot do it by herself. It takes a village and a higher power.

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I grew up in Northern California and moved to Sagle, Idaho in September, 2018. I knew absolutely no one when I arrived, but it didn’t take me long to discover some amazing people and places.

One of my most favorite experiences is meeting Dana and Todd Bellefeuille. I belong to a group on Facebook called North Idaho Cuisine. I learned about the goals Todd and Dana had and I wanted to help.

Working with Juvenile Probationers for 28 years, I have also volunteered and worked with people with special needs since I was 14 years old.

Inspired by their vision, I volunteered to help Dana and Todd at their home until their bakery became a reality. I have met some amazing people with Special Needs and several other adults who volunteered as I have. To watch all of them work together makes my heart swell every time I walk into the bakery. I also love meeting people who come in and purchase the delicious food, all prepared in-house. The

customers are patient and understanding and extremely non-judge mental. They just want to eat some delicious goodies.

The Village Bakery also caters desserts every summer for The Children’s Village fundraiser in Coeur D’Alene, at no cost. We all volunteer and have a wonderful time.

Todd and Dana have the biggest hearts that one could ever imagine. Raising 2 special needs children is not an easy task. But turning their dream into a reality is beyond belief.

What they have created is magical and awe-inspiring. Some of their special needs employees will move on, after learning many skills that they didn’t have previously. Others will stay and continue to grow. I have watched several workers blossom and grow, and it melts my heart! They instill confidence in those who lack it, or who have been told they couldn’t do anything. Thank you for highlighting Dana as a Changemaker!

Having known Dana since we worked together at the CDA Resort about a decade ago, I know she’s one of those people you keep in your life, no matter what’s going on. You don’t see each other for a year, but when you come back together it’s like you were never apart.

Dana makes every person feel that way. She gives so much - has offered her spare bed and room on many snowy nights so I wouldn’t have to make a dangerous commute back to Spokane. More recently, I’ve been going through a divorce and when my water went out at 11pm Dana and Todd drove all the way to Spokane to help a single mom and her girls. They did this even though they had to work the next day and open the shop.

I can’t thank them enough, and I hope that as my life settles, I can get back to the bakery and work more. Everyone there makes me smile and enjoy what I do. Everyone is so happy to be there either working or volunteering. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone unhappy, and that is hard to say about a workplace. I truly believe it comes down to the family she has created and the people she has opened her doors to. Dana and Todd deserve all the support and donations to keep their business growing. Who knows, maybe someday I can open their sister location in Spokane and spread the love there, too!

Biggest fan and supporter.

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Dana Bellefeuille - I don’t even know where to begin. Angel on earth, my hero, a hero to many, she exemplifies caring and compassion. A crusader for the underdog and those facing special and unique challenges, a champion of children, a person who always assists others, Dana never says no to helping those in need or raising funds to aid special causes. Her attributes and contributions are unending.

Dana’s mother always says, “I want to be like her when I grow up.” I couldn’t agree more, but I know I could never measure up. She is a unique spirit and a gift clearly put on earth by God to fulfill a special mission. God singled her out for greatness!

Dana takes the time every minute of every workday to guide and nurture the success of her employees. Because of this, she has earned their trust and admiration along with the rest of us. To watch her is magic - she turns an adverse situation into a teachable and triumphant moment. It is amazing to witness. Her spirit is never-ending, and her vision is expanding beyond the walls of The Village Bakery. Her first goal was to start her business at home and teach those with special needs and disabilities. Then it was to open the storefront and employ her unique bakers; now it is expanding into the community. With the training she provides her employees, some are now going out and experiencing success in other work settings.

Dana’s ultimate goal is universal successthat is, helping her people find success in all areas of life, feel valued and have self-esteem, and to recognize their own abilities and uniqueness. With this goal in mind, she helps them thrive while teaching them how to bake and prepare delicacies, as well as developing life skills like social interaction, money and communication skills, how to work with

others, how to be productive and how to be respectful.

Dana has given so much back to the community. Anytime she is called on to donate time and product she says yes, no matter how big or small the request. Her Cocoa Bomb fundraiser raised $10,000 for the Panhandle Autism Society. Other causes she has championed include an annual Easter Egg Hunt for special needs children, Hospice of North Idaho, Intercept (an organization which helps young people get their lives on a positive life track), Children’s Village (an entity which provides a temporary home for children and teens in need under adverse circumstances), North Idaho Veterans Stand Down Event, Down Syndrome Connections Northwest, Fairchild Air Force Base Tree Lighting Event, Shine Bright, Diseases and Disabilities Advocates Riding Club, a Mother’s Day Fundraiser for Special Olympics and Henna Crowns for the Anna Schindler Foundation. I have watched her work, day and night for some of these events, never saying no to a cause in need.

Dana calls on her bakers-in-training to assist, and is careful to give them one-on-one attention, ensuring they have the right opportunities to be successful. She is conscious of each helpers’ pace and assigns works only according to their level of ability. She lives to teach them marketable skills to help them in any workplace environment. It is Dana’s passion to help her people accomplish a skill they thought they would never do.

I am eternally grateful that Dana allows me to be a part of her special world. It has given me a purpose that I cherish every day. Thank you for recognizing this special woman!

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M rs. B lack

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PHOTOGRAPHER Olly Breeze MODEL Anastasiia Korotka WARDROBE STYLIST Viktoriia Holysh

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Hello, my name is Olly, and I am a fashion photographer hailing from Ukraine. My passion for black and white photography is at the core of my artistic vision and skill, and I believe that fashion and photography have the power to inspire and empower people.

After studying fashion photography in Italy, I had the privilege of working with several fashion magazines, creating captivating editorials and advertising campaigns. My creative vision and technical expertise have enabled me to produce visually stunning and impactful work that has resonated with audiences around the world. I believe that photography is an art form has the power to tell stories, convey emotions, and inspire

people to be their best selves.

I am grateful for the opportunities afforded me, and I am excited to continue pushing the boundaries of fashion photography and inspire others with my work.

Today I am thrilled to present my latest photo project: Mrs. Black, a fashion editorial that showcases the incredible strength and inner force of women in Ukraine during wartime. I aimed to capture the complex emotions of a woman drawing on resilience and hope to overcome the challenges of living in a time of war.

As a fashion photographer, I believe that clothing and style can be powerful tools for selfexpression and empowerment. I was grateful to team up with

the talented model Anastasia Korotka and professional stylist Viktoriia Holysh to create powerful images that reflect the beauty, courage and determination of women..

While war and conflict can take a significant toll on mental health, my project also highlights the importance of having faith and belief in a better future. Through these images, I hope to inspire others to find strength and hope in difficult times.

I am incredibly proud of this project, and I hope that it will serve as a tribute to the incredible women of Ukraine who continue to fight for a brighter future.

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Sofiya Ivlyushkina
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MODEL Svetlana Socolova
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PHOTOGRAPHER Robert Malaka MODEL Karolina Flejszer Robert Malaka is a self-taught photographer from Poland. He has more than 4 years of experience in various fields of photography and has been in love with photography for as long as he can remember. PHOTOGRAPHER Houcine Ncib
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MODEL Nessrine Benna

Grief is weird, right? I miss you. I miss old me before this constant, sad pulse in the background. I don’t know when I will get my old self back (or if I even will).

I had a good day yesterday. You would have liked it. I woke up this morning and I really missed you and wished so badly that we were sitting at my table having a quiet cup of coffee together. Though let’s be real, what would have happened would be that I’d be talking low and quiet and you’d be chattering a mile a minute swirling around the house, maybe washing my dishes, having been up since some ungodly hour like 3am. I’d be hunched over my coffee like an irascible bear: “Mom, it is too early for me to process this many words.”

And you’d cackle delightedly. “Ah, you’re up early all the time.” “Well yeah. But usually running. Alone. I don’t have to talk much.” And you’d laugh.

I miss how excited you were about my writing. How proud I was when you liked something. And how after you told me you didn’t like my attempt at a visual poem, you wrote me a whole email apologizing. It was cute. Like I told you, it’s ok for you not to like something. I don’t like every poem I read. I’m never going to take another picture of you snuggled up reading with the boys. God, they loved playing with you. They told me reading with you was their favorite memory of you. I don’t think they comprehend you’re really gone.

We miss you. I don’t have a blueprint for how to do this. No touch points to “achieve”. I don’t know how to do this. I really wish Mother’s Day wasn’t so soon.

We miss you. We love you. I hope heaven is fun and you have other chatty morning people to cackle with. «

For Maddalena “Layna” Bruno

Linea Jantz has worked in a wide range of roles over the years including waste management, paralegal, medical records staff, educator, and most recently freelance writer. Her journalism can be found in publications including The Dyrt Magazine and Singletracks. She has work featured or forthcoming in a variety of magazines including Thimble Lit Mag, Last Leaves, BirdHouse, Moss Puppy, and the F*ck the Patriarchy anthology by poetry press Sunday Mornings at the River.

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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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While I waited, for just one long, angsty day following the biopsy, I thought seriously and worryingly about leaving the people I love.

I felt sad I’d have to miss out on more delicious sex with my husband, my daughters’ lives, or playing endless virtual reality games with my sister who lives across the country.

I wanted to see more sunrises and sunsets.

I wanted to feel more ocean breezes.

I wanted to feel the hot sun beat down on my skin.

I wanted to play more tennis matches.

I wanted to record more podcast conversations.

I wanted to do more of nothing and experience everything: travel to Greece or lie on my hammock, whiling away the day.

I wanted to sit with a friend and chat about mundane things.

And then, as if by magic, I came to peace with no more of any of these things. I came to peace with this ending. With the end.

I had a good life full of beautiful and rocky moments.

I felt complete. Calm, even.

After just one pitiful-me day, I found myself thankful for everything I had and knew that 55 years wasn’t nothing. I’ve taken photos of babies losing their lives — I know that every day of my life has been a gift!

And then, after all the waiting, I got my results: benign reactive lymph node. No metastatic cancer. Death is not in my foreseeable future.

But death is in my future. Some day I’ll be no more and need no more. I’m ready for death when it finds me. «

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I felt a lump under my arm and for two months I waited: first to get a mammogram, then an ultrasound and finally a biopsy. And then I waited for the results.
PATIENT by Hara Allison
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PHOTOGRAPHER Sobol Roman Evgenievich


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MODELS Olga Pechnina and Dmitry Nikitin

PHOTOGRAPHER Kirill Kutsebin

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Strengthening Relationships, One Coffee at a Time Create sensory-rich nature play for ALL kids JESSICA Healing Resources for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Learn more at available on AMAZON Live Your Dreams Mary Anne Em Radmacher
MAY 2023 ISSUE Don’t miss a single issue! BeneathYourBeautiful org Beneath Your Beautiful Magazine 97
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Beneath Your Beautiful Magazine 99 Podcast: Print-on-demand: Online: Beneath Your Beautiful Magazine

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