Jodi Hills

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


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Happy Day!

I suppose it’s not that exciting to try something new on December 29th, or the 30th. Nobody blows a horn or lowers a ball. But I thought it was fun. On the 29th I painted a woman on a block of found wood, in a style I don’t normally do. Crisp outlines. Bright colors. It was a good lesson in determined strokes. On the 30th, I painted a bird on crafted paper. “Well, that’s not new,” you must be thinking, but this time, I did it all with the same brush. No relying on the tools of the trade – testing my patience and skill.

January is almost upon us. I used to go to the New York gift show every January. I would come home with hundreds of orders to fill. Looking at the pile of papers was incredibly overwhelming. So I didn’t. I taught myself to finish an order. One at a time. Complete the work, box it, label it, claim the victory, then go on to the next. Clearly I wasn’t the first to think of this, but it seems to be a lesson worth learning again and again.

Yes, today is New Year’s Eve! And that IS special! But so is tomorrow and the day after that, and the one after that. I don’t know what lies ahead. And I can’t plan the entire year. I wouldn’t even want to. Today my hands and heart will covered in December 31st, truly worthy of celebrating! Happy Day!


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Love her.

Some things you don’t learn in school. It was a Sunday afternoon. The snow was falling. And falling. I was supposed to go back to school. I had come home for the weekend to see my mother. I was still naive enough to think I could drive in any weather. I packed up my things. My books. My clothes. And the snow kept falling.

Everything said it was not fit for driving. All one had to do was look out the garden window of my mother’s apartment. The snow kept rising. Shortening the view until it was simply white. Still not sure of the severity, still clinging to my indestructible naivety.

I turned on the television to see if there was news that supported my theory that I could make the drive. Nothing. They didn’t even bother to send the reporters out into the snow, they simply scrolled on the bottom of the screen that everything was closed. And still… It’s hard to let go of an idea in your head. This idea that I had to prove something. Be something. Be more. Become worthy, I suppose. And I didn’t want to be told otherwise.

Nobody really likes to be told what to do. I sat in front of the tv, arms folded across my chest, like the snow cared if I didn’t like it. The Sunday afternoon movie began. Camelot. Camelot? The singing was nice. I relaxed a little. I stopped looking out the window. “I wonder what the King is Doing tonight?” They asked in song. Sang “The simple joys of maiden hood.” I relaxed into a pillow and blanket. They kept singing. “The lusty month of may.” And then, “How to Handle a woman.” Aaah, yes. I wondered too. The answer was so simple, “just love her, simply love her.” My heart sighed into a smile. With all my crazy ideas. My wild ideas. My naive ideas…. I still believed in love.

It would not come, this love, not by willing it, watching out closing windows, but taking a deep breath and allowing it to happen. Not forcing it. But with the patience of a snowy Sunday afternoon, it would come. Even in this love, I have to admit my heart and my brain still get a little anxious, perhaps even a little snow blind. “I can do it! Right now. This and this! And why can’t I?” I want to! Right this very minute.” (I suppose I still have those wandering thoughts, needing to prove I’m worthy.) And then he scrolls the words across my heart. “Just relax.” He loves me. Even in all my wild flutters. (I’m still learning.) He loves me with all the calm of Sunday song. And I realize, as I look in the mirror, the song was right, and not just for him, but for me…I must love her — me —simply love her.


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Leap of faith.

It’s easy to put conditions on everything. “If the sun shines today, I’ll be happy.” “If this photo gets a lot of ‘likes’ I’ll be happy.” “If I get this done…” “If she tells me this…” “If he would just…” So many conditions. And I’m guilty of it too. We all want certain things. Need certain things. But what I want to do, what I’m trying to do, is start from a place of happiness. Start from a place of gratitude. Every morning. And then let the conditions fall away. Take away my ifs and just start being. Looking only inwardly. Not comparing my life, but living my life. The only competition should be with oneself. Am I living my best life?

When I visited the Brooklyn school district, I asked each young student what they were good at. They unapologetically told me of their gifts. Not bragging, but claiming their attributes. They were young enough to enjoy the gifts. I remember feeling the same. I was 5 or 6 when I began to paint. When I began to write. Not needing any encouragement. No social media. No pressure. I would go into my bedroom and color. Paint. Draw. Write. It was me. That’s what I cling to. What I believe in. The doing. The being. It’s a good day when I enjoy the process. Get the paint on my hands. Get the words on the page. Forever young enough to enjoy the gifts.

I read to the students my story “Leap of faith.” (The story of me daring to take my first real dive off the high tower.) When I was finished, one young man came up to me, and asked a very intelligent question. “What was that really about?” he asked, knowing it was deeper than just the water. “It’s about daring to be yourself.” I replied. He smiled like he knew. “I can do that,” he said. And he ran off to join his class. I know that he can!

“I don’t know if this is going to be the day that my feet will touch the sky…but I am going to climb that tower, and I am going to be scared and I’m going to be happy, and with the wind in my hair, my heart is going to lead me…and one way or another, I am going to fly!” (from the book, Leap of faith)

I’ll see you up there!


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Find your way home.

I painted a portrait of this dog for my book, “Home.” I had the original leaning up against the wall in my apartment. You could see it when you opened the door. My neighbor’s dog, Daisy, spotted it immediately the first time she passed by. Daisy, normally the calmest service dog, went wild with excitement. Finally, she must have thought, someone like me! She only saw in once, but she remembered, and she always wanted in my apartment. I sold the original after the gallery show. I didn’t have the heart to tell Daisy her friend wasn’t there anymore. Because when she saw me. Heard my door open, she still felt the presence of her friend. I let her keep that gift.


I suppose that’s the way it works for all of us. We spend our time searching for someone who makes us feel less alone, who makes us feel more like ourselves, who makes us feel alive! What a gift that is when you find it!


“All the songwriters and poets have tried to tell us, what all the homesick children and the soldiers know, what the girl in the red shoes and the barking dogs know, what the signs waiting at the airport terminals say and the whistle of the train screams – “There’s no place like home!” (From the book “Home”)


I continue to paint the portraits. The landscapes. The doors. All in hopes of helping you find your palette, your familiar, your heart…to find your way home.


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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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Nobody told the birds.

December 26 is not the day we celebrate, but nobody told the birds. I’m sitting by my morning window, swarmed in song. I’ve never heard the birds so joyful. You can almost see the notes dancing in the trees under this cloudy Sunday morning sky. It truly is spectacular. What a beautiful thing to wake up to! A gift. Nothing to unwrap. Nothing to return. Everything to enjoy!

I guess every day is a gift. If the birds can see it, I, we, should be able to see it too. And I want to. Every day. I don’t want to waste one. I don’t want to wait for the calendar to tell me it is special. Each one is special. So on this 26th, this Sunday, this cloudy, uneventful day, I am going to celebrate this life. And I am going to sing!!!


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In a moment of happiness.

The kids and I played a game last night. Well, game is a funny word – no winners or losers, wait – I guess all winners. Anyway, we started with a blank piece of paper. One pen. One person started by drawing a line, or a shape. Passed the paper to the next one. They continued. And soon that line turned into something. For instance, a pirate — Jack Sparrow no less. We did this for an hour. Talking. Laughing. Drawing. One scrap of paper. One pen. We had so much fun.

It was not lost on me that about 5 feet away there was the Christmas tree. Gifts piled all around. So many presents. They aren’t up yet. Soon they will be rejoicing, and ripping and laughing for all the new! Before they do, I just want to spend a little more time in the moment. The moment when all it took was a connection. That moment will return. This is what I give thanks for, in the morning calm.

Now, I love a good present. Love to give them. Love to get them. I will soon gush over the purse that I picked out myself and then wrapped and put beneath the tree. But this moment. In the quiet, when I know that I already have everything, this may be the greatest gift of all.

The blessed dawn of Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas! 🎁


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No measuring cups.


It wasn’t often that I saw my Grandma Elsie without an apron covered in flour, that I saw the kitchen sink empty, her cupboards clear… You entered her house through the always unlocked door, directly through her kitchen. First impressions. It was always full. She was permanently baking and cooking, but rarely cleaning. This is not an insult. I have always admired her ability to let things roll. She didn’t seem overly concerned about the little things. She made it all look so easy. We asked her once about leaving the door unlocked, wasn’t she worried that someone could just walk in, in the middle of the night. “Well, maybe they’ll clean something…” was her response.


They say she never measured anything while cooking. I’m not certain it’s true, but it would be within her character. I started baking when I moved to France. I have no American measuring cups, and only a single French one. There is a lot of guessing. Not to mention the translating of recipes. The swapping out of ingredients (Chocolate bars are in the “exotic” aisle of the grocery store.) I’m not sure why I started. I don’t remember the first thing I baked. I’m going to guess cookies. I suppose for the first time in my life, I wasn’t afraid to do it. There was no one who would judge me, or make fun of me. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. For the first time in my life I was secure that my love would not be measured by kitchen triumphs or failures. I was simply loved. It’s amazing what that confidence can do for you.


I think of my Grandma now as I bake for Christmas. I think of how she must have felt loved. So loved that she could dance in her kitchen, covered in flour, with the sink full of dishes. And I am so happy that she had that. That confidence. That love.


Now with all those children, all those years, all that living, of course she must have had her share of heartache. Of concern. I suppose, even worry. But she showed none of it. Not with her hands. With those hands, covered in flour, covered in dust, she held. She gave. She touched.


Love is never measured.


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Dewey Decimal.

I suppose some might say that it has always been my nature to “worry.” Wednesday evenings before library day at Washington Elementary, I would wonder, will they give us enough time, will I find the book I want? And I hate to call it “worry,” really, it’s just that it all meant so much to me. The books, the library, the stories, I valued them. I loved them. So I took the time, mapped out the library on paper and in my head. Learned the sections of my favorite series. Studied the Dewey Decimal System. Made friends with the card catalog, not to mention the librarian. So yes, I thought about it a lot – but it wasn’t the agony of worry, it was love. And I will never regret giving them my time. My thoughts. My concern. Loving them with all of my heart.


Today, there are always concerns, and bigger ones at that. Family. Health. Life. World. But I would like to think I’m not just “worried.” Worry itself doesn’t seem to inspire much action. Concern, feelings, love, now that helps me. Makes me aware of the problems, the issues, and gives me the incentive to do something. Worrying, simply worrying about tomorrow, not only doesn’t help my tomorrow, but it loses my today. It’s not always easy. And I am certainly not perfect. Oh, that “worry” can sneak its way in, but when it does, I look for my tools. I Dewey Decimal it to the ground, and reach once again for the love. It, love, has always been the answer. Still, and again.


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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.