Jodi Hills

So this is who I am – a writer that paints, a painter that writes…


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Green. Golden.

It was not an accident that I ran into the stainless steel tree yesterday in the museum’s park. It was beautiful. Permanent. It would never die, I thought. And this seemed so appealing, just after hearing of her death. This tree would never die. Never.

It was an overcast day. No sun visible. And what if time did stop for us? What if it stopped now, and we were forever here? Never changing. No, I thought. I don’t want to be the stainless tree. With all of life’s flaws and heartaches. Goodbyes. Tears. I want to live. I want to feel it all. I don’t want to miss out on what today will bring. What tomorrow will bring.

Nothing is permanent. And that is frightening. But even more, to me, is to not really live. I want the chance to blossom. To bloom. To green. And with that, I will not get forever, but I will get now! A more beautiful now than any permanence could ever promise. A today of chance and hope and love and life.

We said goodbye to Rose Ann Maloney yesterday. She did not live a perfect, stainless steel life. It was filled with hellos and goodbyes and joys and heartaches and laughter and laughter, and work, and more work, and love – so much ever changing LOVE! So no, it was thankfully not stainless steel. It was not permanent. Not shiny. But make no mistake – it was green! It was golden!!!

In loving memory, I will repost a blog that she said was her favorite. She said it would help her be brave in her journey. Maybe now, for those saying goodbye, it will also, I hope lend some of that much needed bravery.

——
Barely more than air.

There is a group of migratory birds that, each year, flies 7000 miles over water, without stopping, without eating, without sleeping. They are able to shut down a piece of their brain. Their heart rate changes. Their digestive system adapts. These beautiful living beings, weighing barely more than air, have been given every tool necessary to make the journey. Each year, at the same time, in the same place, without worry, without discussion, they take the flight. They don’t gather and wonder, “Well, I don’t know, it’s a long ways… I’m not sure… It’s super hard…We could get hungry… Probably tired… Maybe we should wait…” No, these are the voices in my head, probably yours.

When I was five years old, I began to write and I began to draw. My mother said, no matter what I was feeling, I would go into my room and create the feelings on paper. Feel them. Work through them. Resolve them. These words and colors would carry me through unimaginable things. They still do.

Sometimes I forget. Clogged down with little things like, oh, my computer isn’t working correctly, how can I possibly go on… I’m embarrassed to say that I can be grounded by the smallest things, when I know, I have been given everything I possibly need to make each day’s journey.

I, we, barely more than air, hold the most magical gifts. Here comes the sun, my friends. We can do this. The sky is open with possibility. I’ll see you up there.

———-

See you up there, Rose Ann!


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Slugger.

He was an older man in the church we attended. If I did know his name, I don’t remember it now. But I remember him. I remember his voice. He always greeted me with, “Hey, Slugger!”

I was just a young girl. I threw like a girl. I hit like a girl. And I was proud of it. I loved it. The sport was fun, but I think it was more the sun. The freedom of summer. The belonging with the girls. I suppose it was the first time I belonged to something bigger than myself.

When my parents divorced, it seemed this church decided to break up with us as well. I didn’t understand. My mother didn’t understand. It was subtle at first. Doors dropped in front of us. Coffees cancelled after services. We didn’t belong anymore. In a place where all should be welcomed, we were forgotten, all but for this one voice. This old man, who still saw me. Still called me by my heart. Still recognized the strength inside me. Didn’t see me as broken, but a fighter, possibly even a winner. Those two words, “Hey, Slugger!” — the most Christian words I ever heard.

Yesterday, we went to the home of the Louisville Slugger. I didn’t buy a bat. I didn’t need one. I know who I am. I have faith. And I am strong.

I want to be a voice that gives you hope, gives you strength. You can do this! We can do this! I believe it! C’mon team!


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Go higher.

We almost past by this store yesterday, until we saw the sign, “This store voted number one in Midway, by owner.” We turned around and went inside. A store with a little pride and a big sense of humor, we couldn’t miss that! It was a delightful store. And we almost missed it. The people inside were welcoming. Funny. And they had great merchandise. And we saw it all because they presented themselves in the best manner. Maybe we could all do that.

Even at our most poor, my mother always looked like a star. She dressed well. Put on her make-up. Put on a smile, sometimes gutted there by pure will, but it was always there. She looked great! Still does. Because she cared. We were at the downtown Minneapolis Dayton’s store. It had many levels. The levels got more expensive with each escalator ride. She didn’t even look at the first level. At the second, she glanced around and said, “Ewwww, this looks like stuff we could afford…”. We laughed and went higher.

Through the years she found the sales. Put things on lay-a-way. Saved. Wished. Styled. And always looked wonderful. She taught me that. What a gift. It’s never about money. It’s about style. And if that style can include a little pride, self-esteem, and a great sense of humor, that will take you pretty far, and you’ll look good along the way.

She will always be voted #1 mother, (by her daughter.)


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Beating.

There is no vacation from your heart. It’s forever with you.

Even as we travel, I always take time to create something. Daily blogs. Sketches. Small paintings. It’s who I am. It’s my heart. I don’t need a break from my own beating.


I started painting and writing when I was five or six years old. My mother says I would go into my bedroom, and no matter what I was feeling, it would end up on paper. Felt. Resolved. I know I am one of the lucky ones. Not because I have something I love to do – I believe everyone has that – but because I knew what it was early. And continue to do it.


Every bird in the sky, and each of us on the ground were put here to do something. Find your reason. For yourself and for the world. The scariest part I suppose is claiming your gift. Daring to do it. Once you’re doing it, you’re doing it. No fear in flight.
You can flap and flutter all you want. Fighting it. Digging your feet in the ground. But your heart won’t rest. Each beat telling you – “Just do it already. I’m right here with you.“


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Brilliant.

As we change hotels almost every night, we also change the lighting in the bathroom. The ever so important lighting by which we begin each day. I fear my vanity may be showing, but I do like good lighting. It’s funny, perhaps hopeful, optimistic, but when I’m getting ready in poor lighting I think, “well, this can’t be right… this can’t be the way I look.” And then we get to better lighting and I have to admit I think, “yes, this is me, this is how I look!”

And why not? Why not think the best about yourself? Is it vain, or simply brilliant? I’m going with brilliant. And perhaps even more brilliant — if I’m willing to do this for myself, see myself in the best light, I think I should be able to do this for you. I think we all can.

We catch each other in so many moments during the day, and they may not all be flattering. But maybe, just maybe, on the days we are feeling “well lit” we can share that light with others. And maybe we’d all have a better day.

Step into the light. It’s going to be a beautifully brilliant day!


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An education.

We have visited most of the Ivy League schools now. Stepping on to each campus, I can feel it. Maybe it’s the knowledge, the learning, but most probably, I think it’s the curiosity in the air – the possibility. It’s not lost on me that the most glorious beam of sun just shone through the window at the moment I was typing “curiosity in the air.” And I guess that’s the real beauty, isn’t it? It is everywhere. And I want to feel it everywhere. Now some might think it shines only for the elite, but if you can see yourself, in the grasp of that morning beam, then aren’t you too, one of the elite. Aren’t we all?

But we must be curious. We must be able to see the possibilities – feel them. I feel it right now, as I’m telling you this. And I want you to feel it. The lightness in your feet. The extra rhythm of your heart. Eyes wide open.

I didn’t attend an Ivy League University, but I feel privileged. I got a good education from the University of Minnesota. I got an “Ivy” league (my mom’s name is Ivy) education from my mother in how to survive anything with grace and dignity. Combining the two, along with the ever curious spirit I was given, we were all given, at birth, I feel more than elite, I feel heart-filled, mind-filled, joyously alive.

Today is filled with possibility. The world is your campus. Wander. Enjoy. Learn. Live!


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The calm after.

The sun was shining. Not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful blue. No puddles in the street. No sign of the storm. “Devastating,” they said. “It took me three hours to get to work today,” he said. “You can understand why we don’t have any cars,” they said at the rental office. We did understand. Or we wanted to, but we really didn’t see any evidence of the storm. But of course it had ravaged them. The wind. The water. It hit the east coast of the US hard! And we were lucky enough to arrive yesterday, just after it had passed.

We won’t always get the proof we think we need. But why do we need it? We seem to think we have the right to know why everything happens. When someone tells you they are suffering, this should be enough. “Well, they look fine,” we think. They should be fine. We don’t know the storms that pass through each home, each heart. And we shouldn’t need the details. The proof. When someone tells you they need a minute. They need a rest. They need help. Believe them. Be the calm after.

The sun is shining today. And we are so excited to be a part of it! So grateful. Whatever you’ve been through to get here, it shines for you too!


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Whole wheat bread.



Yesterday I made whole grain wheat bread for the first time. I had never made bread of any kind before arriving in France. A good first. Then I starting making the jam for the bread. Another first. We love the bread, but Dominque convinced me that we should try some whole grain. It was absolutely delicious! We both loved it!

It’s easy to let a day go by, days go by, and before you know it – you’ve lived a lifetime of sameness, or passed through a lifetime, but I’m not sure you’ve really lived. I don’t want that to be me. I want to taste something new from the palm of my hand. Feel something new from the palm of my heart.

I’m writing to you today from the airport in Amsterdam. My first blog from here. I’m sitting next to the first (and only) Frenchman I ever loved. The bread, the blogs, the travel, none of this would have happened if I hadn’t taken a leap of love and tried something new. Perhaps it takes a lot of firsts to find the things that last. And that my friends, tastes like a life!


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Find the good.

I don’t have all the answers. But I have a lot of them (that work for me). And I guess that’s the key.  

You know what’s best for you. You know what will fulfill you. You set the bar for yourself. Others’ successes do not hurt you. Be happy for them. Others’ failures do not lift you.

They may not even feel they’ve failed. They get to decide that for themselves. You have the answers for you.

I was about to say that yesterday was a bit of a stressful day, but I’m stopping myself because the day itself was actually perfect. The day was sunny, open, and offered every opportunity.  There were stressful moments though, within this lovely day. And in those moments, this is where all the work pays off. This is when I need to use all the tools I have been given, created, found, discovered – that work for me. First on the list is always my happiest of places – the painting studio. I took out my bird sketchbook, and penciled in the first bird. My heart rate slowed. I took out the paints. I must have been smiling. The paint moved from palette to brush to paper (sometimes to fingers and clothes), and I became the weight of the bird. I let him dry and did the second one. I know what calms my heart. The day held the same ingredients of every good day I have ever experienced – it was up to me to find it. Find the good.  

Today is beginning with the same sun. The birds are singing, as if to remind me who I am. I smile because I know the song. I know myself. It’s going to be a wonderful day.  



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Family

He used to sit right above my head in my office. Sold recently to a wonderful family in my home country, he now has a new home. Now it is she who rests above my head. And although they are completely different, she teaches me every day, (because I need it – perhaps we all do…) the lesson of empathy. The lesson of seeing other people. Because once you see someone – truly see them, you know better, and when you know better, you have to do better.

Yesterday I sat with my family outside at the garden table. We drank wine. Ate the fruits of the sea. Barbecued. We were one. Now, in reality, we are not related by blood, by language, or by culture, but we are family. Because we chose to be.

Across the sea, my mother put on her new dress, and went out to dinner with her best friend, Carol. They drank and ate. Gave and received compliments. And I could feel their joy! They are family, because they choose to be. And I will always choose to be theirs!

The world needs to make some big choices now. Are we really prepared to see what is happening to humanity? And if we truly see them, can we every look away? Or can we make the choice, that as humans, we belong, we have a place at the table. We are family. I look at the face that rests above me. She tells me this has to be true.