Jodi Hills

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


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To rise above.

I began mixing up the bread dough this morning. The first thing I have to do is to proof the yeast (to make sure that it actually does what it claims it can). If it’s good, with a little sugar and warm water, it will show you exactly what it is capable of. And when it works, rises up to meet you, you’re good to continue. 

Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” People will often say, after doing something wrong, “Oh that’s not who I am…” Or after being mistreated by someone, say, “It’s ok, that’s not who they are…” I’m sure I have been guilty of both. I’m sure we all have. But Maya was right. People will show you who they are, again and again. Some good. Some very bad. And the key is to believe them. To stop asking for proof when someone is kind to you. To stop aking for proof when they are not. 

Last week, when making bread, for the first time in a long while, the yeast didn’t work. I threw it away and started with some new yeast. It never would have occured to me to try and proof it again — it told me right from the start — “I’m not going work.”  Maybe it’s a bit harder to see in humans, but it’s still there, usually right in front of us. We just have to be willing to see it. Embrace the good. Walk away from the bad. 

I want to be better at this — be who I claim to be — who I want to be. And see others for the truth that they offer. What if we all did that? Offered the world proof that we truly can rise up!


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Halting of hate.

Now that Thanksgiving has been celebrated, but not forgotten (for I want to keep that gratitude in my heart every day), it is, for me, joyously, all Christmas, all the time! But I like to do it slowly.

A few years ago I made toffee for the first time. It is a wonderful lesson in patience, this slow simmering, this delicate balance of heat, but not too much… wait, watch, simmer, bubble, not yet, stir, easy now… maybe now… gently pour… That’s the way I like to decorate — in a slow, sweet, so deliciously sweet, simmer.

Yesterday I put out my favorite book — Maya Angelou’s Amazing Peace. She wrote the poem in 2005 for the lighting of the White House Christmas tree, but it has, perhaps, never been more relevant, this call for Peace. For peace, she says is not just “the absence of war.But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.”

I know some people worry, oh, we shouldn’t say Merry Christmas. People have different faiths. Different practices. But never has it been more beautifully explained than in this poem. She welcomes all people:

“We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.”

A halting of hate. What could be more magical than that? I don’t know if you celebrate Christmas, but this is what I want to celebrate with you. This joy. This hope. This peace. If you are one to decorate, I encourage you to place this book, front and center. If you like to keep it simple, then I encourage you to wear these words on your heart,

“Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.”

What an amazing time of year! An amazing opportunity for growth, even on the coldest of winter days. Warm yourself in the practice of peace. The slow, sweet simmer, of all that we can be.


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If I had a hammer…

We visited the home of Thomas Jefferson. I took a picture of his work space on my ipad. I have the same hammer. I use the same hammer. In some ways we have come so far — I don’t know that he ever could have dreamed about an ipad, but he loved learning, progress, so I think he would approve. In other ways, the world hasn’t changed that much. The basics. The hammers. The tools of our daily living. I think the goal is to use what still works, but then keep learning. We have so many more tools at our disposal now. But are we doing better? I want to do better. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I always go back to one of my favorite people, Maya Angelou — she said, “When you know better, you do better.” We can do better. We can pick up the hammers that still work, and build with them, build on them. Use the tools we have today and go further.


It’s easy to type the words. Harder to live them. I know. Yesterday I got clogged in a mess for a couple of hours. I don’t want to give it more time, so I’ll just say, toner. Stupid toner. Stupid printer. My first thought was, “you’re wasting my time!” I said it over and over in my brain. Then it occured to me, that it was actually just me. I was wasting my time. I can do better. Today, I will do better. My hammer still works. My hands still work. My brain still works (well…as it does), and I will build a better today.


Thank you, Thomas. Thank you, Maya! Thank you, new day! Let’s begin!

Watch for this image. It’s going to be the cover of my newest book – a collection of these blogs!


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Here.

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…”  Maya Angelou

It took me a long time to understand this quote. Decades. Oh, I was familiar with the “no place at all.”  That didn’t seem to be a problem. I never thought I fit in with my town, or even my family. And that is a lonely place. Because we all want to belong, it’s our nature as humans. It’s why we have gatherings, schools, religions. 


And so I began my journey. Away from this town. Away from this state. And eventually, away from this country. But each new place, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, France…did I belong to them? Not really. But I was becoming comfortable in my own skin. I was creating a world from inside my heart. I was learning that just because some people don’t love you, or can’t, doesn’t mean you are unlovable. It doesn’t mean you don’t belong.


From each new destination, each new experience, I was able to see the other places with a new perspective. I could go back to my hometown, my home, and I could wear the letter “A” for Alexandria with pride, no longer in the Hester Prynne sense, but in the “cheer oh cheer for Alex” sense.

Maya was right all along. She continued her explanation with, “I belong to Maya.” And with that, she belonged everywhere, and nowhere. She could be somewhere or alone and she was home. What freedom!  
This freedom has allowed me to travel, to be open, to love and give with my whole heart and know that is good. It is enough. Maya was right – it can be terrifying (“the price is high”), but it is beautiful (“the reward is great!”).  


Today, I belong here. Every place. No “place” at all.