Jodi Hills

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


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How it should be.

It was at the State Theatre in Minneapolis that I first heard the Indigo Girls. Dayton’s used to put on an extreme fashion show each year for charity. Oh, just saying Dayton’s does something to my heart.) The theatre was dark and suddenly they blasted the intro for Fugitive by the Indigo girls, and the first model stepped out. It was a mixture of clothes and music, and city and night, art and diversity, and they sang, “Remember this as how it should be.” Oh, how I wanted to remember. 

My mother and I loved Dayton’s. Saturday mornings. Always before lunch. Trying on clothes at our thinnest. No need for food. We were fueled. Hands gently touching racks. Filling dressing rooms. Mirrors admired. Compliments given. Hearts full. Then with hands bagged it was off to lunch. To sip at the wine, and pull out each item, tell the story, live it with laughter and praise, and before I knew the words to the song I thought, “Remember this as how it should be.”

I was mowing the lawn yesterday. Listening to a podcast. They were interviewing the Indigo Girls. I couldn’t hear every word over the hum of the motor, but my heart… I can’t tell you what the models were wearing that beautiful evening, but I can recreate the feeling of hope and desire and pure excitement for a life recognized. I don’t recall every garment tried on or purchased with my mother, but as I sit here in my new Saturday morning, my heart is filled with laughter and praise. 

I suppose that’s the way it is for everything. And that’s how it should be — the experience. Today we plan to go visit a vineyard. I know I will forget the wine. Probably even the place. But the time…my heart is already singing.


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Feel like blooming.

There is something to the spring cleaning. The refresh. And it’s probably no surprise that the new Home Edit series was just released on Netflix. I will admit that I am excited by their organization. Inspired to do my own. This, mixed with trees in bloom, the flowers singing along with the birds, I begin.

I am not one who believes I have to buy more things to get my old things in order. No judgements, just me. I’ve always liked shopping my own dwelling. And I do. Frequently. I started with a good clean of the bathroom. Changed out the painting. Changed the postcard. Took the candle that I was gifted for Christmas out of its red container (red wouldn’t do) – put that candle into an appropriate container (a previously used up candle), and lit it, of course. And I picked a small flowering stem from our garden. As we say here, quite loosely I might add, Voila!

There is something quite satisfying about a spring refresh, and I slept well. The next morning, not quite awake, I turned on the bathroom light, and my heart smiled to the tips of my mouth. That, my friends, is refreshing.

I’ve started tackling my office. And it occurred to me, maybe I could do this within, within myself. An edit. Let go of the old feelings I’m not using anymore, the ones just cluttering up space, gathering dust…wouldn’t that be something! And even if it lasted for a day, a season, and I did it again, wouldn’t that, just like the spring birds, give my heart something to sing about! I think so! My inner voices must deserve as much attention as the shelf in my office. And so I begin. The load a little lighter, a little cleaner, in my house, in my heart. I smile, and feel like blooming.


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…and if I did that for you

I am working feverishly to prepare for the launch of my new website. Taking photos, scanning, making new prints, cards, displays. I am always surprised at how subjective the eyes are. At first glance, I see what I want to see. Then I look again. Wait. Is that the best scan? Is that the right color? Then the camera shows  a different look. Then I put it on the computer, and there is something else I didn’t see. And wait, print it out on paper – oh, yes, another look. And still, I show it to someone, and they see something different. 

When I painted this wren, I know what I was thinking, so my eyes saw that story. When I showed it to my friend, she saw her sister. And I saw her heart. When I painted the image of our coffee pot, my husband’s son said he could see our reflection in the image. Did I paint it there, or does his heart just know us, know our home, our kitchen, our breakfast table? 

We see the world with our hearts, our minds, our experiences. And if we’re lucky, we see, too, through the eyes of those around us. It’s really not enough to just look. We have to start seeing each other in every possible light. 

…and if you did, see that I am not just my face, but all that I have faced, and if I did that for you…


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Aubergine.


I love to get dressed up. I don’t mean ball gown dressed up, (though I’m not against that for sure), but dressed nicely, put together, perhaps a scarf that matches my purse. To ensemble – yes, I made that a verb – feels wonderful. I have named my gloves — Ava Gardner, my sunglasses — Anna Wintour. Sure, some will call it vain, and it probably is, a little, but for me, it feels more like a confidence boost. Like there’s a superpower hidden right there inside of my gloves. And I suppose, if you believe it, it’s true.


I couldn’t have been more shy when I was a little girl. Not in Kindergarten, nor 1st grade, not 2nd, 3rd or 4th. As I got older I avoided speech classes. I didn’t want anything to do with it. So it surprises even me, that I can now give speeches, presentations, in front of any group. And even more surprising – I love it! I adore it. Yesterday I spoke to a group of Special Education teachers. I put on my green dress, with, of course, my matching green boots, my French scarf, and performed with confidence and strength.


Now, I know that the confidence comes from work. The writing. The painting. The living. The practicing. I put my heart and soul and hardworking hands into every performance. The work, the substance of my efforts, is an eggplant, for sure. Strong, sturdy, deep purple. And I know this. I live by this. But because I have put in the time, to grow, to make my “eggplant” strong, on those days that I get to perform, I put on the clothes, that take me from eggplant to aubergine. Because we get to decide, don’t we! We get to decide who and what we want to be! No one can tell us, or force us, not even our former selves! So I do the work. Smiling. Knowing, in a world of purple, I can be aubergine!


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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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Pillowing.

“Your heart pillows to mine, and I am home.” It is a simple sentence. One I wrote for my book, “Home.” I also made it into a picture that hangs in our upstairs hallway. To take a noun – pillow – make it a verb, and everyone still knows exactly what it means, this is a thrill!


I have always loved words. I grew up with them. They are a living force in my life. An exchange of goods – as my mother read to me before bed. An exchange of goods, as I read to her my blog each day.


This lifeforce – these words – how do I give thanks for them? As the lyrics say in the song “To Sir with Love,” — “How do you thank someone, who has taken you from crayons to perfume?” For that’s what these words have done. They have raised me from a child. From my first visit to the library at Washington Elementary. To today, as I arrange them together, hopefully in a new way, on this page, eagerly trying to lift, to inspire, to connect. So to thank them, in my most humble way, I can only use them to the best of my ability. Use them for good. (Because make no mistake, they are tools – these words – and just as easily as they can build, they can also destroy). I pray that I, we, use them well. Share them with kindness, with as much love as they were first shared with me, by a woman, who I would grow to resemble in looks, who I long to resemble in heart. She laid them so gently in my bed, these words, so softly, so comforting, one might even say she pillowed them.
Don’t spare your words. Share them. Mean them. Thoughtfully, gently, use them well.


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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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Good morning, Fern!

We got a new plant for our library. She is a fern. I named her Fern. (Everything doesn’t have to be hard to be delightful.) She sits beside the antique typewriter we got from Dominique’s mom. So in my head, Fern works in this office from the 1950’s. Every morning, when I open the shutters, let the sun in, I say in my most boisterous, yet cheerful, of voices — “Good morning, Fern! Take a letter.” I hope you’re laughing. It makes me laugh every day. I’m smiling as I type this.

It really takes so little. Today, (well, and every day) find something that tickles your heart from the inside. I’m old enough to know about the Reader’s Digest magazine. They had a section in there called “Laughter is the best medicine.” I was probably six when I started reading them. I didn’t always understand, but I knew I liked to laugh, so I hopscotched through the words and found myself laughing just the same. I guess I had already started making a choice to find the good. And it is a choice.

So fling those curtains, those shutters, those hearts wide open. Greet the day. And find the good — it’s out there! Good morning, Fern!!!


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Perfection knows no time constraints.

When I focus only on my own tiny heart, I can feel badly that she doesn’t remember me, my mother-in-law. It’s only natural, I suppose. And when I say the words out loud, it is only natural. There is no malice. Only nature. She has done her job. For 96 years. She has cared and nurtured and lived. When I arrived she welcomed me. Learned about me. Clapped for my paintings. Sometimes more than once. Knew me. And that was perfect. In its time. It is now my turn to welcome her, again, for the first time. Welcome this period in her life, not with anger (How could you forget?), not with sadness (Why don’t you remember?) but with grace (I’m happy to see you.)


I have climbed the Sainte Victoire. The mountain doesn’t remember me, but oh, how I remember each step. Each stumble coming down. It is my job, my joy to remember. I remember kissing at the Eiffel Tower. Wandering the relics of Rome. The feel of the Mediterranean washing over me. I remember my grandfather’s overalls. My grandmother’s hands. It is my job to remember. To share the stories. Pass them on. Give them life. Until one, day, in one language or another, someone might carry them for me. Carry each kiss and stumble. Until they can only pass them on again.


And it will all be as it should. Filled with grace, this perfectly imperfect gift of time.


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…Even on fragile legs.

When I watched her dance, I couldn’t believe that those legs could be that strong. Not only to lift her in the air, but then brace her as she came back down. Simply amazing the strength. Maybe that’s why I love dance so much. This elegant combination of beauty and strength.

The champion horses in Kentucky display this same recipe for beauty. These massive animals, carried so elegantly on seemingly fragile legs. Amazing! How do they do it? I paint them with as much respect as the dancers.

Perhaps I’m only able to recognize the beauty in both because my mother has displayed this same combination of beauty and strength my whole life. I know she often worries, or says, “I want to be brave.” And she is, oh, she is! She is the dancer that doesn’t see the audience standing on their feet in awe. She is the Thoroughbred that runs through and past the finish line.

When I first started painting, even the most simple of characters, my mom would say, “oh, she looks like me…” And of course they all did. They do. I see her in everything. I guess that’s how it is when you love someone. You see their beauty – everywhere.

I paint the horse and I smile. I am a dancer. A race horse. My mother.