Jodi Hills

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


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Choosing yellow!

Today our yard burst out with yellow flowers of joy! I can think of no other reason than it was just so happy to see us.

You have to go to the edge of our property – in the tree line. You won’t see them just in the middle of the lawn. We were cleaning up the yard after being gone for a month. Moving slowly with the jet lag. I don’t know why I looked down the slope, but there they were. Hey!!! Look! I was awakened by a sea of yellow.

I suppose everything is about perspective. How we choose to see things. Yes, a new season is approaching. We’ll close the pool. Change our routines. And at first glance, that can seem a little, if not sad, melancholy, but then the garden tells you – “Hey, there’s life here too! Don’t forget about us! Take another look!”

There are some things bouncing around in my head. Someone did something recently that I didn’t like — I mean really didn’t like — and my weary brain likes to keep dribbling that ball of negativity. But I have to be the one to let it go. No one else can. And that’s not always easy, but I had a thought last night. You know those late night thoughts that keep you up. A line occurred to me — “I take it back.” Now some might think that means I take back all the things I said in my head…no, I meant those things. Still do. My brain would still keep saying them if I let it, and maybe even more… like saying “No!” more, and saying “No more!” But what I take back is my own life. My own joy. I have a sea of yellow blooming just for me, and this is what I have to choose. Yellow! I choose to be yellow!!! So when those thoughts come creeping, as they are famous for, I will grow over them and take it back. I will take it all back. My yellow life.


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Coffee on the table.

It has been a month since we had our coffee. We’ve had lots of coffee — lattes, iced and hot, dark roasts with cream, coffees from drip makers, espresso machines, pods — lots of coffee, but not ours. This morning I brewed the coffee in our Italian pot. It is simple. Strong. Fills the kitchen with the scent of morning. Fills our spirit with the taste of home. 

I painted this coffee pot years ago because it was a symbol to me of “falling in love with your own life.” It is still just that. And to start each day with that reminder is priceless, familiar, comforting — I guess that’s home.

But it takes an effort though. You have to search. Try different things. Take different paths. Stumble. Fall. Get up again, all in order to find this place. And then maintain it. I suppose the best way is just through gratitude. So I give thanks for this morning pot of coffee. I give thanks for this love. This life. This home. 

There’s coffee on the table, and kindness in the air. We begin. Good morning!


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Looking for things to steal.

I guess I’m always looking for things to steal – two petite jars of French honey from First Class, and a glance of the Eiffel Tower through my passenger’s window on the right.

It’s a standing joke I have with friends. They have good taste. And as a compliment, I say if I were a different person, I would totally steal it. I have filled my imaginary bags of loot through the years, and we laugh. But the truth is, I am always trying to take something with me. The funniest line over dinner. Maybe a recipe. That feeling of pure comfort that only comes from true relationships. True hearts. Those moments that you can’t quite put your finger on, but want them never to end. MAGIC. That’s all I’m really trying to steal, a bit of the magic.

We just landed in Paris. My safe is full. Thank you, Mom. Minnesota. Alexandria. Friends. Family. History that begins and begins. Forever thieves of time. Of hearts. You have mine. I carry yours.


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Coffee spoons.

I suppose it all comes down to relationships. The cherry on top.

There was a store in Minneapolis, four stores really – the Bibelot shops. They ordered big, and consistently. As we drove through Linden Hills yesterday, it all came back so clearly. I would make that drive almost weekly. Loaded up my car with the pictures and books and cards. Drove through the manicured streets. Off of France. Toward lake Harriet. Unloaded the car to smiles. Seeing my items on full display, my heart was full. I belonged. And it was nice, the money, it was how I made my living of course, but it was more than that — it was the relationships. I had so much respect for the owner – Roxy. A single mother who created the stores herself. From nothing, into something grand! Prosperous. Beautiful! All this success and she was kind. Welcoming. To me. To my mother. And each of her employees reflected her. I would meet the buyers in New York. Both tall and beautiful, they stood out from the crowd. I could see them coming from far away, and my heart beat strong. I knew I would have an order. I knew I would be seen. What a glorious thing for this small fish in this gigantic pond.

My hands waved out the car windows as I relayed these memories to Dominique. Memories on every street. Coffee here. Friends here. Sundays here. Wine here. Shopping here. My first museum. First photo shoot in this studio. Life opened here. I was T.S. Eliot pointing out all of my “coffee spoons” — “for I have know them all already, known them all: Have known the evenings, morning, afternoon, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

Oh, to be blessed with all the cherries. I’m sitting in a friend’s condo as I type this. It is beautiful, certainly. I love the beds and pillows. The view of the Galleria. The French soap. The candy drawer. But mostly it’s because they share it with us. To know we have friends like this — how red, round and sweet!

Reach out your hands today – arms length – it is a day to be measured.


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Rolling and tumbling.


It was our first real restaurant date a decade ago. His first time in Minneapolis, he wanted to see the Mississippi River. We sat outside on a sunny day. My heart was all jimbly – that feeling of not falling, but rolling and tumbling into love.

We had been exchanging emails. My first said, “I hope our worlds collide.” I can’t say why I used that word – I had never before. But I did. And he came to Minneapolis from France. We sat by the river at the Wilde Cafe. Eating. Drinking. Rolling. Tumbling. We went inside after eating, to pay and use the restrooms. There was a small table with postcards and advertising. I came out of the bathroom and he was holding one. Smiling like the Cheshire Cat. Across the top of card it said – Collide.

Routines can set in through the years with coffee and croissants. And while they provide comfort, sometimes, you have to take a minute and remember why you started the journey. Why you jumped in, heart first. Sitting in the same place yesterday, I, we, could feel the “wilde”. I loved the restaurant. The coffee. The plated food. Delicious. My city. The city that let me in, and let me go. I loved it more. The sun. The breeze. The river. This man. All knowing my name. My heart. All willing to collide with me – heart to heart. And perhaps even more importantly, willing, joyfully, to keep rolling along beside me.

A new day is beginning. I want to keep that feeling alive. I encourage you to do the same. Taste the coffee. Smile at the sun. Fall in love with your life. And keep rolling.


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Welcome to the garden.

I received this comment yesterday on my post —

“Your mom was the first person I met in Alexandria. She was the receptionist at the school and I was there to interview for a teaching position. She was so warm and welcoming. I have never forgotten her kindness. She is a beautiful lady inside and out.”

I have heard this so many times through the years. She wasn’t just the receptionist for the schools, but for the town of Alexandria. And what a welcome she gave. Even at her lowest times she was a light. Of all the lessons I learned in school, and there were many, this is maybe one of the most important. You get dressed for the day. You carry yourself with grace. With empathy. You do your job. You present your best self. You make the effort. You dig deep — even when you’re not sure if there is any there. You keep digging.

Life is challenging. Daily. And you don’t know what you will meet — who you will meet. For someone, you are going to be the only light they see today. Don’t hide it. Be the one who dares to dig. Who dares to shine. It matters. This is OUR garden.


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Waking in color.

I can still feel it when I go into the hospital – any hospital – any country… I am a teenager, and the doctor’s are rebuilding me joint by joint. Most of the time, it started the same. In the dark of early morning. (I still don’t like waking in the dark.) We’d often stay, my mom and I, at my Aunt Karolyn’s house in Minneapolis. She would take us out at the crack of dawn. None of us having slept. Anxiety that we all carried in different ways behind slight smiles. Quietly we’d weave into the shift worker’s traffic. She’d drop us off at the nearest door. Forms were filled. Each letter rising higher in my throat. Gowns. IVs. I can feel my heart tighten as I type. I don’t know if it was worse being put to sleep, or waking up from the anesthesia. I threw up going in, and coming out. But I made it. We made it.

Wheeled back into that generic room, she stood out like a flower – my mom. Tall. Dressed in yellow, or turquoise. Her signature colors. Her signature warmth. And I was saved. Over and over we did it. 20 times. And she was there.

Nurses would often say, “Oh, I can tell you are mother and daughter.” “Oh, yes, you look alike.” “I can see it!” And mostly what I felt was relief. Yes, it was a compliment, I thought she was beautiful, is beautiful. But what I saw in her, every time I woke up in a strange room, a sterile room, she was color, she was familiar, she was warmth, she was home. And if they could see even a tiny bit of that in me, then I thought, now I don’t just have something to save me, I have something to give.

And I do. I try anyway. In every card, painting, book. I want you to feel the comfort in it all. The words. The paint. I want you to awaken to the colors I’ve been given. The colors I share with you. The colors that are bursting inside of you right now. Feel the compliment of love. The security. The joy. The love, and then pass it on. We’ll all be saved.


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Dabbling through time.


In my dream this morning, I was trapped in some sort of a space continuum. I say “some sort of” like I actually know what any kind of a space continuum is… In my dream I did though. There were all of these pockets of time to move through, and in some we would get stuck, trapped, others pushed us away. I suppose, not a lot different from real time.

We had Mallards in the lake across from our house. A lake not clean enough for swimming. With ducks that didn’t seem all that “special.” Everyone wanted to see the Loons. Wanted to hear the call of the Loon. It was haunting. Celebrated. Told a story of love’s travels like a train in the distance. We had the trains. We had the quacks of the Mallards. But I wanted a Loon. Wanted to be a Loon.

It was one of our science teachers that told us they were dabbling ducks. Dabblers. I liked the name. And suddenly these Mallards became more interesting. They had a story. And now, when I walk by the lake, see them tip over like a tea kettle, I smile. They are dabbling for their life, popping up and down, through pockets of time and lake.

Life on Van Dyke Road is a pocket of time for me. I travel in and out of it. There were many hard times. But I found that I too am a dabbler – able to tip over and pick out the goodness and pop myself up again. I tell my story, not always with the glorious call of the Loon – the voice I thought I needed, but still, I am proud to quack it aloud. I am a dabbler, from Minnesota. And I will continue to pop myself up, and tell my story, our story, again and again. We can’t all be loons, but we all have a song.


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Pause.

Perfection is not something I’ve ever tried to capture on the canvas. I guess I’m looking for character. Something that changes your breath just a little. That pause that says I’m interested.

Beauty is so subjective. Even for myself, it’s hard for me to describe why something is beautiful. Why did I want to paint this house? I guess it’s there in the pause. That moment passing by when I think about the lives inside. Was there the smell of coffee? Toast on the morning table? Did they sit together? Smile across a table? Were hands reached out without words? Were the dreams the same as when the siding was new?

This is what makes my brush move across the canvas. Through the nooks and imperfections. Whether I’m painting a house, or a portrait. All the beauty lives there. And I pause.

I am not a perfect person. I can get impatient. I’m in a hurrry for the results that would make my life easier. I suppose we all feel that sense of urgency. And in most cases, it’s so ridiculous. I can see it (just after it occurs). So what if they want to turn left on this busy street? Repeat the same joke? What difference does it make if they have 13 items in the 12 item cash line? My hands have come to understand the beauty, and they tell my brain to pause. Tell my heart to pause. “There is beauty here, and you’re going to miss it.” So I breathe. Brush, my hands across the weathered siding of my heart. Beauty lives here. I pause to feel it.


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In the flutter.

It’s funny to see sea gulls in the parking lot by Cub Foods.  No sea. No lake. (And there would be a lot to choose from.) Was there even a puddle? You have wings, I thought. It seemed so clear. Just fly. There is so much better out there for you. And you’ve been given the tools. 

How many times have I told that to myself through the years? It’s so easy to get stuck. To settle.  But I’m learning. Every day. Seeing. The value of time not wasted. Gifts not wasted. Seeing. The choices. Myself. And that’s the key I suppose. First you have to see yourself. Really look. Is this what you wanted? Is this what you think you deserve? A parking lot puddle? Or are you willing to take a chance on yourself? Take a chance on your own wings and fly?  

Nobody told me that I had wings. (But I could hear it in the flutter.) No one told me to paint. To write. To explore. No one said, you know you really are worthy of true love — from others, from yourself. And even as I’m typing this, I’m not sure anyone can – which is ironic I suppose, because I’m trying to tell you. And smiling. So I’ll only tell you this —- You do have wings. What you do with them is your choice. How you live, how you love, it’s all up to you. I can only suggest, flap around a little, listen to the flutter, it’s telling you, “There is so much more than puddles.”