Jodi Hills

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


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This little light of mine.

We got a new vacuum cleaner. It has a very bright headlight. It was amazing, and a little bit frightening, what I could see in the corners, under furniture — see what I had been missing. The great revealer, this light. It was so satisfying to know that I was actually making a good cleaning. It felt good, and I found myself vacuuming with enthusiasm. I can’t go back now, to the old vacuum, the old way…I know too much.

I suppose it’s that way with everything. At least I would hope so. But in so many ways, I think we are failing. In the few minutes of news a day that I allow myself (my heart can’t take too much), I see, what I can only call filth. The absolute worst of us, making the same mistakes over and over. And we allow it. We shine the light on it, and still refuse to see it. We have to do better than this. We know better. Right and wrong are not that difficult to see.

Get your house in order, they say. And I guess that’s right. I will do my best in my little corner of the world. Try to make it as beautiful as I can. It was what we were taught, wasn’t it? This little light of mine? I’m gonna let it shine.


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To flutter.

I woke up to another 5-star review on my Etsy page. She said my painting “was her very favorite in her whole house!” Just a few words strung together, but they fit perfectly into my heart and filled it!
It’s amazing what we can do for each other. Just the tiniest bits of kindness. Humanity. It’s so contagious. I give you a piece of my heart. You pass it along to someone else. It flutters and flies and fills the air.


Some will call it the butterfly effect — how the simple flapping wings of butterflies in India can change the weather in Iowa. I am not a scientist, but I have seen this play out with humans. I have seen the flapping of kindness change the behavior of many. I have seen the soaring effects, the light and airy beauty of it all. And I want to be a part of it. A part of the beauty. Of the changes.


Today, can we let go of all the things that are weighing us down? The weapons of bigotry, and hate. Fear and anger. Can we just let them go and fly? Oh, how I hope so! Let’s fill the sky. We can be the change.
I’ll see you up there!


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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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Easy now…

When I’m painting a portrait, I like to find what I call the soft beauty. The resting face. So comfortable in their own skin. The true elegance of ease. It’s the face that a person gives you when they trust you. No tension. No tightening. Nothing awkward. Nothing to worry about. Just the welcoming softness of being.


I want to feel that softness in my own face. Oh, to trust you. What a relief. But perhaps, even more, I want to be the face that allows you to feel the same. The face, that when you look at me you think, this is a safe place, for my feelings, my fears, my joys, my dreams, my not so secret garden.


If we could do that for each other, be a safe place to fly, a safe place to land, oh, my, how beautifully gentle, how elegantly soft this world could be.


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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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Never underestimate the power of a compliment.

They gave us free margaritas at the hotel last night. Why do free things taste so good? We could afford to buy a drink anywhere, but that’s not the same. This was given to us. No expectations. We didn’t have to drive. We didn’t have to do anything but enjoy it. Delicious.

Free. Nothing tastes better. Nothing feels better. A gift with no expectations. We stopped at Walmart to get water for the road. I had put on a dress to make the long freeway of the day a little more bearable. The Walmart greeter said, “Oh, you look so cute today!” It felt great! I felt great. And it was all free. Free for her to give. Free for me to enjoy!

You know we can do this for each other. All the time. It really is so easy. Let me be the first (and hopefully not the last) to tell you how important you are to me, and this world. Let me tell you how beautiful you are – inside and out! Let me tell you – thanks for being my friend!!!! Make today delicious, for yourself, and all those around you.


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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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Three minutes in the deep end.

My mother didn’t know how to swim. But she knew how to drive. And from the age of six, even on the harshest winter Saturday morning, she dropped me off at the Central Junior High School pool for swimming lessons. Under the domed roof, we learned to crawl – the crawl stroke. We learned to breathe, and to hold that breath. To trust our bodies. We learned the side stroke – pick an apple and put it in the basket. The breast stroke. The backstroke. We learned to dive. We learned to tread water. Three minutes in the deep end with our hands in the air. We swam 50 laps to pass the exam. We would be safe in any of the 10,000 lakes.

At noon my mother would pick me up. I exited the glass doors that surrounded the pool. Head steaming in the cold air, I wondered if my long blonde strands would freeze. They never did. My mother was never late to pick me up. Never. I never worried that she wouldn’t come.

Perhaps that is the sole reason I dared to go in the deep end. That I still do.

Teach me with honesty and I will know trust. Teach me with gentleness and I will know strength. Teach me with kindness and I will know love.


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The poet.

The poet.A cow hung from the tree outside my grandparents’ window. It swayed without skin. Raw. I knew how this must feel. To be without skin. My mother told her parents that my father had left.

They say when you lose one of your senses, the others become stronger. It was not one of the five, but I had lost my sense of comfort, and all the others were working in overdrive. I could hear the flies buzzing, the tears falling. The gray clouds were palpable. The slightly forever over-cooked pans on my grandma’s stove wafted in the thick air. I stared at the cow. I stared at my grandfather. Back and forth, as if to ask if this was my mother’s fate. My grandfather said very little, ever. So when he did, you listened. “No,” he said, “this will not break your mother.” He found the words. The ones I needed.

Today we are living without hugs. Without touching. Displays of comfort hover somewhere in between six feet of social distancing. We need to find the words to take their place. We need to find the words that hold and gather. The words that offer the “there, there.” The words that fall into each other’s arms with laughter. The words that smile and hold and forgive and offer hope. We have the words. Let’s use them.

Adrienne Rich writes, “It is always what is under pressure in us, especially under pressure of concealment–that explodes in poetry.”

Let yourself explode today – offer the words of kindness and strength. You are the poet. Find the words.