Jodi Hills

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


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Have to say it.

The other day, driving on the road to visit Dominique’s mother, we passed the same building as we do once a week. This day was different. They started construction on this building, well, destruction I suppose. There was a giant space in the middle, and suddenly the view was completely different. A lovely old church with a steeple stood center stage. Was that always there? Of course it must have been. It was beautiful. We only hope when they construct the next building, they remember what’s behind.


Maybe it’s too spot on – tearing down walls to get to the heart of it…changing your view so you can see something spectacular…what you need has always been there… Some might say, well that’s just too obvious. It goes without saying. But does it? In so many instances, I think we think that. “Well, she must know how I feel…” or “He knows he’s talented…” I don’t have to say it. But I think we do have to say it. Bring to light the things that are there. Tell people how we feel. Share our compliments. Our encouragements. Our love. We won’t lose anything. But oh, how much there is to gain!!!


Today, let’s say the things we never said. Let’s not take the chance of missing what is there. Let’s share the thank yous. The good mornings. The I love yous. Nothing to lose. So much to gain!
Good morning!!!!


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Refer a friend.


There is a concept on the internet market called “refer a friend.” If you refer a new customer (we’ll call them a friend) to a website you have used, this “friend” will get a free gift or discount, and you in turn will get a free gift or discount. I can honestly say that I’ve never used it. Maybe I’ve never been that sure about a product.


It got me thinking though, in real life, it’s a pretty good concept. I have both felt and seen what the power of friendship can do. My mother has a friend, a dear friend, that has been extraordinary. She, even in her own difficult times, has been able to offer my mom a care that only a true friend can. And because of her, my mother has more to give. Together they create a comfort and a joy — (just like the song says, I suppose). Free gifts exchanged daily.


Go ahead and buy whatever you want. That’s up to you. I will only offer this small bit of advice. Find a friend like this. Be a friend like this. Giving. Open. Freely exchanging. Because it is so true, you always get more than you give, and they in turn will have more to give – and the circle of love continues. Of this I am very sure!

(This post is dedicated to Sara. Standing strong with her in this difficult time.)


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Dress Designer.

We were shopping the City Center Mall in Downtown Minneapolis, my mom and I. The shops were magnificent. Such beautiful things. Could we afford them? No, of course not, but the real question was, could we afford not to look? We were dreamers. We had to see.

We dressed up to go shopping. (I suppose like one used to dress up to be on a plane.) We stopped at the Lillie Rubin store window. Such elegance. We began to enter the store when the longest legged clerk I had ever seen asked if we had an appointment. An appointment? “You need an appointment to enter,” she said, as if words could be an eye roll. My mom, without missing a beat replied, “Are the clothes busy?” I laughed out loud. Long legs turned and walked away. We laughed all the way to Dayton’s.

We had already survived much bigger rejections than a Saturday afternoon store clerk. This would never stop us. Life gives you the opportunity to decide. People can’t hurt you unless you give them the power. City Center is long gone. But we’re still here. Still shopping. Still dreaming. Still looking. Still laughing. Through everything, still deciding to make it a good day.

My mother was a dress designer. Not for Lillie Rubin, but for us. I give thanks for that, every day.


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Winter boats.

It’s easy to love the summer of someone. The well lit, sun filled long days of them. But when the tanned shoulders are covered, with no aid of chilled rose wine in clinking glasses, you have to really love them. Just them.

But, oh, the winter boats. They are so beautiful. Resting on the shore. This is when you know. You know you can trust the love of the winter boats. The ones who will sit with you when the waters have cooled. Will be there, when no fireworks light July’s sky. Will be there, just be there, for you.

What a joy it is to not look back, nor forward, just beside. True love rocks gently.


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Unstoppable.

During our latest trip to the US, I got to see one of my dearest friends. When we pulled into the parking lot of her building, I started to get emotional. I opened the door and I could see she was crying. That laughing cry that’s unstoppable. We danced around each other, so overcome with emotion we didn’t know where to land.
It had been a while for my eyes, but in my heart, no time had passed at all. We could finish each other’s sentences and jokes. We had shared everything. Our time. Our experiences. Our stories. Our fears. Our laughter. Our gum. Nothing had changed. Even as I’m typing this, my heart swells. She has seen me on my best days, and on my worst, and has befriended me unconditionally. And I will forever do the same for her.


You might think we are exactly the same. But other than our name, we really share nothing in common. We have lived, and continue to live completely different lives. We have different interests. Live in different countries. But for some glorious reason, she knows the language of my heart, and I hers.


I will never downplay the importance of family. But how can I stress the true importance of real, real and true friendship? I want to invent a new word. Because friend isn’t enough. Sister isn’t enough. So for now I will just say, she is my Jody Skinner. My one and true Jody Skinner.


I hope you all have one. This forever friend. This person that can crumple you in a fit of laughter. This person that holds so close to your heart, no matter the time. No matter the distance. Today, I encourage you to pick up the phone. Write a letter. Send an email. Do something. Hold them close. Together, you will be unstoppable.


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With strings attached.


I wasn’t sure if I’d remember. It’s been over a month since I made bread. But this morning my hands pulled out the flour, and yeast and sugar and oil. Sprinkled in a little salt without my having to think. They knew. They have done it a countless times before and needed no direction.


And so it is with seeing old friends. I saw her at Starbuck’s and our smiles challenged each other for size. Had it been minutes or more than a year, my heart didn’t know, didn’t care, it loved with no need for direction. We talked about nothing and everything. She gave me two dish cloths. Knit by her own hands. Folded. Tied with the tiniest of bows. Strings that attach directly to my heart.


Friendship doesn’t need conditions, but it does need strings. Strings that attach.


While we were at my mom’s, a dear friend of hers brought over a batch of cookies – made with her own hands. They were delicious, but more than that. They were time and care and concern and friendship. Strings that attached.


I have always trusted the makers. Those who use their hands and hearts to show you their love. And so I make the bread, and the words and the paintings to show you mine. I reach out. I reach back. Forever attached.


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Magic wandering.


“Years ago, there were tribes that roamed the earth, and every tribe had a magic person. Well, now, as you know, all the tribes have dispersed, but every so often you meet a magic person, and every so often, you meet someone from your tribe.” — Carrie Fisher


It took me a long time to find my tribe, but not my magic person. She gave birth to me. She was the one who gave me the courage to go look for the rest of our tribe.


Through the years, we have gathered each other in. You know the reflection of your heart when you see it. And oh, what a delight! Yesterday we walked into their condo, and just resting, on the coffee table, one of my books, “astonish”… welcoming us, reassuring us, we were, still, and again, home.
In this book I encourage you to “surround yourself with these people…A world of people opening doors and highways and hearts, just by living. Just by being bold enough to be themselves and to share their amazing gifts…they give us reasons every day to hope, to believe, to try.”


Keep your eyes open today. There is magic wandering.


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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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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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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.