Meet me in the middle

I’ve said before that I am constantly juggling my day job as a marketing/PR professional and my night job as a clay artist, not to mention the everyday demands of my family and home. I’m not complaining; I love my life – the blessings and the challenges (there’s a lot of both but many more blessings).

Since early January, my CATA team and I have been busting our arses to address critical projects, including a community report to nearly 140,000 residents about what we achieved in 2019, prior to our millage renewal appearing on the ballot tomorrow; our 2020 census campaign launch, which featured Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Statewide Census Director Kerry Ebersole Singh, representatives from our congressional legislators (Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin); three state legislators (Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., Rep. Sarah Anthony and Joe Fedewa, representing Rep. Angela Witwer); City of Lansing Mayor Andy Schor; and my boss, CATA CEO Bradley T. Funkhouser, and our board chair, Nathan Triplett – along with many dignitaries in the audience, the entire Capitol press corps, two government television stations and our two local TV broadcast news – WLNS TV-6 and WILX TV-10. It was a worthy feat, and my employees and I accomplished it all together as part of a team.

Tomorrow CATA will kick off the relaunch of a downtown route (Route 17 Grab & Go Express) with fanfare and a remote radio broadcast. Tuesday, we’ll watch with confident hope as voters support our millage renewal. Then, I will switch gears to work on communications for our audiences – internal and external – about how coronavirus (COVID-19) could impact operations and how we will address safety concerns related to the virus. We’ll do that as contributors to a team.

On weekends, I’ve also been busting my ass to clean out the basement, where we’ve accumulated 20-plus years of treasures and junk. My goal is to organize and allow my artist son to carve out his own studio space. He, my husband and I have made a lot of progress over many weekends, hauling stuff upstairs, outdoors and into the dumpster. It’s hard to see our progress, because we still have a way to go, but we’re getting there. Once we sweep, wash and disinfect the basement, our contractor will return to install some electrical outlets, my massive 200-lb. commercial air-ventilation/purification system and a utility sink, which will make clay play a whole lot more enjoyable. I couldn’t do it alone, and I am grateful for my boys’ willingness to roll up their sleeves and help me with an altogether different kind of dirty work.

I write this entry while watching the MSU Spartans battle The Ohio State Buckeyes, having just remarked about the Spartans’ hustle and teamwork. Our beloved Spartans won 80 – 69, clinching its share of the Big Ten title.

Teamwork makes the dream work, the saying goes.

Today at the Red Barn, our membership met for its quarterly meeting. I missed the last one due to a work commitment, so it had been a while since I’d seen most of my fellow potters. It was so nice to see everyone’s friendly face and to catch up.

My good potter friend Jane Hildebrandt and her husband Max are in the process of buying the Red Barn from the current owner, Ruth Zimmerman, who is moving to Traverse City. It was a bittersweet gathering wherein we took time to celebrate Ruth’s good work to advance pottery in our region. We also discussed our upcoming spring kiln firing; the opportunity to invite other non-Red Barn potters to fire ware; teaching potters who have expressed an interest in teaching others about this art form; creating test tiles for a Cone 6 reduction firing, scheduling raku firings; reaching out to the Greater Lansing Arts Council (where I serve on the board of directors and chair the Artist Committee) as a resource; and educational and funding opportunities for Red Barn members, along with potters in and outside the community.

There’s a member in our group who tends to rub me the wrong way. Always. She’s extraordinarily confrontational. My problem? I despise bullies; it’s one battle I simply cannot acquiesce to. One’s desire or need to be perceived by others as more relevant and more powerful but utterly failing to back it up with substance, character or fact – makes me dig in my heels and prepare for battle.

I chair the Artists Committee for the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. It’s an effort to identify the needs of local artists and communicating how the Council can be a resource. Our dialog is positive. The exchange of ideas is marked by a high level of respect, enthusiasm and excitement. We don’t cut each other off midsentence. We don’t dismiss others’ contributions to the dialog. We consider them thoughtfully. We smile – genuinely – and encourage as much sharing as possible.

The tone of the meeting today was, at times, tense. She tends to be opinionated, freely and dismissively pooh-poohing ideas offered by others. My tendency is to bark back. A nasty encounter with this woman last year was the primary reason that I’ve spent far less time at the Barn and more in my home studio. Today, as I weighed in on ideas, she repeatedly argued against my position and my contributions to the dialog. It reminded me why I’ve stayed away.

But staying away makes clay play lonely, and that makes me less productive. I find that I hurry to finish my work, instead of getting blissfully lost in it. Of course, at the Red Barn, I miss my family, who I rarely see or spend quality time with, because of work. All I know is, life is short and we can choose how we interact with others, especially those who mean so much to us. We can choose whether we will work as part of a team or in isolation. We can choose whether we cut people off or listen. We can choose to build walls and close others out or let them in; to be misunderstood or to try to understand. We can choose to reject the kindnesses of others or … to be kind.

I’ll try to be a better person. I’ll do my part to contribute to our clay community – to the building of a team. It won’t be easy for me to restrain myself when bullies rear their heads, but my contribution and reaction to the exchange is all I have control over.

Maybe she’ll meet me somewhere in the middle.

Published by Lolo Robison

Crackin’ Crow Pottery is a Greater Lansing clay studio owned and operated by ceramic artist Lolo Robison. What’s a crackin’ crow? Simply put, it is an alliterative translation of “good crow.”

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