Saturday, November 9, 2013

313/365 Grateful for Challenges

"How Do I Challenge Thee?  Let Me Count the Ways"

Challenges are a funny thing.  We seem like them when we choose them ourselves...better a run time, finish the Friday crossword puzzle, lose weight, finish a pair of socks, stay awake until we finish the book.  We tend to meet the  challenges that we set for with enthusiasm.  Is this because we know that if we are willing to set the challenge ourselves that we are fairly certain that we can meet and overcome it?  

Part of today's challenge was the monthly self-portrait.  After eleven months of doing this, it is now the technical aspects of it that challenge me a little more than the emotional ones.  Back in January, it was all challenging!  I am coming to grips with who I am and what I look like.  There is not a whole lot that I can do about that really.  (At least not until my Photoshop skills improve greatly.  Then, who knows, I could become six feet tall, tan and a size 4.)  I really am glad to have a few photos of myself.  Some of them are even OK.  I think that this one is the first head to toe shot that I have taken this year.

You may be wondering why I didn't dress a little more appropriately for a photo shoot.  Today's attire is actually part of my response to challenges.  When we were in Portland for the NOAH Adult Weekend, it seems that some of the locals were a bit taken aback by seeing twenty  adults with albinism walking through their streets.  One evening as we were walking back to our hotel after dinner, someone (probably a drunk someone) yelled, "What is it with all of you with white hair and pale skin?"  A quick thinker among us responded with, "We are the Swedish Bikini Team."  This seemed to satisfy the inquirer.  As we continued to walk, another curious soul asked if we were part of a cult. There was no question that this person was experiencing better living through chemistry.  Rather than engage her in conversation, our fearless leader encouraged us to "swim on."

As the weekend continued, several inside jokes evolved.  Someone decided that we needed a T-shirt to commemorate our weekend.  In a moment of unclear thinking having nothing to do with any mind-altering substances, I agreed to design the T-shirts.  Another challenge; I have never designed a T-shirt before.

I knew that it had to be simple, but I also wanted to include as many of the meaningful little moments from the weekend as I could.  Starting with the green...there was something about Portland and ducks and green:-)  Everyone seemed to be wearing green.  And, the shirts needed to be a good background color for pale people in bikinis.  

There are five women and one male on the bikini chorus line.  This is because one night as we were sitting in the lobby of the hotel, several women but only one male with albinism, another confused Portland party-er asked, "Are you all family?"  The lone male replied, "Sort of...they are all my wives."  I'm not sure whether the questioner was jealous or felt sorry for this guy.  His response, "I figured you must be Mormon."

The girls' bikini bottoms are heart-shaped.  This is simply a nod to the love and kinship that we all feel for one another.  There is comfort in being around people who understand through personal experience the most difficult struggles that we face in life.

The final challenge in today's photo is actually wearing the shirt out in public.  Why?  Because it is an invitation for people to ask, "What the heck is the Swedish Bikini Team?"  I have to be prepared to openly discuss albinism with this stranger, to risk being made fun of.  The flip side is that it may also be an invitation to educate and advocate not only for persons with albinism, but for anyone with any kind of differences.

I realized this final challenge when I was placing the order for the shirts.  (As an aside, I ordered them from; they are an awesome company to work with!  I highly recommend them to anyone who finds themselves responsible for ordering shirts for a group.)  Both customer service representatives that I spoke with commented on how much they liked the shirt design and wanted to know what they were for.  Umm...they are a response to being made fun of on the streets of Portland?  I ended up sharing most of the story with the reps on the phone.  They were truly supportive of our message and our mission to educate the general population about albinism.

The shirts arrived this week and Weber and I got them all packaged and mailed to the rest of the team this morning.  That could have been a challenge if I had been responsible for creating the database with everyone's name address and shirt size.  Thankfully, my beloved husband did all that.  I truly have an artist's temperament when it comes to that kind of stuff.