Jodi Hills

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


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Prescription Filled.

I could see her from the kitchen window. Her head just above our gate. I couldn’t breathe. It was the old woman from the pharmacy who had just accused me of being a drug dealer, or addict, who could be sure… 

I had been to the pharmacy twice that week. Leaving each time with two garbage bags full. Both Dominique and his son were recovering from surgeries at home, and I, being able bodied (but not yet of sound French mind — not that I am now) was left to go to the pharmacy. I handed the pharmacist my stack of prescriptions, which apparently included an extraordinary amount of morphine. I returned her stare with an apologetic smile — it was my go to response for most things foreign. Then the questioning began. I understood little but the tone, and this was not good. I could feel the heat from behind the counter, and the glare of those waiting in line behind me. I stumbled and fumbled with the few words I knew for husband and back surgery and I’m sorry. They finally allowed me to leave with my “stash” and I sulked out the front door and loaded the car. 

If I hadn’t been sure before, I was now, that certainly I would never get my own insurance card, not to mention visa. I was now a wanted criminal. My worries were confirmed as I saw her face, this pharmacist, waiting at our gate. I screamed something to the likes of “she’s come to get me, and now I’m going to be deported.” Dominique laughed. (Which was less than reassuring.) 

It turns out she had checked out the prescription. Confirmed it. And was bringing the remainder of the drugs that she, by law, had to confirm before distributing. It all makes sense. Now. We laughed about it again this morning, from the safety of our kitchen table. 

When I look back, there have been countless situations like this through the years — not so much drug related — but situations that I thought were simply unsurvivable. It’s almost embarrassing typing that now — unsurvivable. Oh, what we can survive!  I try to keep these memories close at hand, for my own education, but being human, I so easily forget, and I find myself slipping into another trauma — a “trauma” like deciphering shipping codes for FedEx.  Oh, how soon I forget. This is not trauma, but something to be laughed at from a kitchen table.

It gets easier to let these situations go. I still go through them, but I find myself laughing sooner — and I suppose that’s progress. We take our victories where we can.  

Today started out with laughter. They say that’s the best medicine of all. I sit at the kitchen table, prescription filled.


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Tested.

As we get older it’s not unusual to still dream about getting tested in school. Running late for class. Fears of not knowing the subject. All those nightmares of feeling vulnerable and unprepared. I just never expected to be living them. 

To obtain my long-term visa in France, I had to be tested on my language skills. (Remember, I had none when I arrived.) I took the first test, and passed. (I’ll skip over the tears and fears here.) I thought that would be the last time. I was wrong. I needed to take the next level test this year. It sounds a little silly, even as I type this, but I was terrified. In my head I had passing and failing all tangled up with being loved, accepted, included…worthy. The logical part of my brain (which doesn’t often win out) whispered that wasn’t true, but I couldn’t hear it over the fear. Now some might say, that’s ridiculous…nothing to be afraid of, and that may be the sane thing to say, but the fact is, I was afraid. It took all the courage I could summon up to study every day, three times a day. Study and cry, and study some more. 

I put on my favorite dress and prayed it would be lucky. I took the four part, full day exam, and spoiler alert, I survived. I waited five weeks to get the results, which came in an email yesterday. I saw the tag line. My heart was pounding. If I didn’t open it, I still had a chance. My brain said open it, but the blood pounding in my ears said no! I opened it. Scanned the first line – and there it was – “Felicitations” (Congratulations) — I passed. 

In the afternoon, I painted a picture. Nothing in my life had really changed. I was still loved. But maybe I quieted the voices of fear, just a little. I smiled with each stroke. Knowing, I had been brave. And in telling you, maybe, with whatever it is you’re facing, you can read these words, look at the painting, and quiet your own voices of fear…just a little.

Before writing this today, I studied my French lesson, as I do every day. It’s not over, there is so much to learn. And the world will continue to test. But I made it to this day! We made it to this day! And this is a reason to celebrate. Felicitations, my brave friends! Felicitations!


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A taste of honey.

I can’t say that I ever really liked honey. Well, to be fair, I’m not certain that I had ever really tasted it. Sure, I had the occasional squeeze from a plastic bear, but I understand now that that was probably just manufactured liquid sugar. 

I liked the sound of it – Le miel de lavande, and then I had a taste of it. Lavender honey. My shoes still covered in the lavender field’s morning dew, we purchased a jar from the local vendor. At home, I put a little (let’s not kid ourselves, a lot) on my homemade toasted bread. OH, so this is honey!  Yes. Yes! I DO love honey. I guess you know when it is real. 

I guess it’s the same with everything, not the least of which — love. We’re quick to label so many emotions, connections with the word love. I know I did. Because we don’t know – certainly I didn’t. A taste of this, that, even the other… maybe this was it? Could this be it? And squeezing from the “honey bear” I tried to convince myself that it was good. But was it? Not really. Not for me. 

I suppose one could have stop searching, but my feet answered only to my heart, and it said “keep walking.” So I made my way, slowly, stumbling to the lavender fields. So this is it! This is love. Oui!

I don’t know all the answers, how the magic works, how our heart creates the most unlikely maps, but I do know this, if you can’t taste the honey, really taste it…keep walking. Love should be delicious!


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A tourist in pink.


It’s summer in Aix — our peak tourist season. We were just walking through town – going to Dominique’s dentist appointment. I wanted to feel what they were feeling – the tourists. I started looking around. Wow. It really is beautiful! I took a few pictures. The houses, the churches, the scent of the pink flowers — I saw it all again, for the first time.

We decided to stop at the fish market. We bought some sea bass (loop de mer) for the barbecue. And some vegetables for the plancha. Some rosé wine for the imagination.
We ate slowly in the summer air, and I fell in love, again, for the first time.

The world is pretty extraordinary. But we have to decide to see it, every day. I suppose that’s why I paint. In these moments, I have to forget all the “well, I’ve seen this before…” — all the “it’s just another day…” — forget the noise of “but this… and this.. and my…”. I have to just stop, and see something for the first time. Look at the flower. It’s brand new. It’s waiting just for you. I stop a bit of time, a vacation from my brain, a tourist in pink.