Jodi Hills

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


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Weighted Treasures.

I never used to go to thrift stores. I’m not proud to say that I looked down on them. It seemed we all did. (Not my grandma though. Ahead of her time perhaps, she loved a good garage sale.)

With time, knowledge, a little luck and grace, I, we, gained a new perspective. Now I love it — thrifting. Searching for that golden ticket. The treasure. And this trip to the US, I found several. Two t-shirts (both Alexandria Cardinals – gotta represent!), and two pants. Score!

Yesterday, wearing one of each, I took some photos in the garage. Pairing my paintings with some of Dominique’s old tools. I thought the combination was beautiful. Diamonds and rust, as the song says.

That’s the funny thing about beauty, it changes, if you are open to it. Want to see it. And oh, how I want to see it. And it occurred to me, the best way to see it, to allow yourself to be knocked off balance by something new, is to have the assuredness of love around you. Those people you can count on. Those people who will love you, no matter what you are wearing. Who will love you through trends and times of sorrow, and times of success. Steady. True. Love.

If you have this, and oh how I hope you do (I wish it for everyone), then use it as the weighted treasure it is, to balance yourself as you create new things, discover new things, as you reach for the beauty that swirls all around you!


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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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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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Making heirlooms.

I looked it up, to see the exact definition —. Heirloom: a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.


I don’t suppose we’ve ever been a family of objects, but I’don’t feel badly about that. Because we do have valuables. My grandparents, being farmers, grew something every year. Not for display. But for the growth. The life. And the stories that remain, even after every truck and tractor, every tool, had been auctioned off, the stories remain. And I hear them. I write them. And I pass them on – these heirlooms.

Since I can remember, I have only seen my brother in overalls. He is not a farmer. I’m sure if you asked him, he would say for the comfort, the pockets, easier to work in… and those reasons are probably all true. But it occurred to me that maybe he is creating his own heirlooms. Just as I write the stories, he puts on my grandfather’s wardrobe, and gives his own grandchildren an image of the past. An image that they certainly will carry with them forever. Their Grandpa Tom wore overalls.


We get to decide what is valuable in this life. What is important to us. For me, it has always come down to the human connection. Never to be displayed on shelves, but certainly displayed daily, in hands reaching out, arms pulling in, love grown, lives shared.


Some days, as I type, I wonder, is it really important, to write these words? And then you respond with memories of your own. Share your stories — your heirlooms — and grandparents are kept alive, traditions, schools, hometowns… and I smile and know it is valuable — making these daily heirlooms.


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Joie de vivre!

I remember our church was having an event to raise awareness for the homeless. Young students slept outside on the sidewalk for one night. While I wanted to celebrate the effort (anything is better than nothing) it was hard for me get on board. This was not homelessness. This was camping. This was going to bed knowing the next day you would go home. To a home. To the security of running water and soft beds. To the security of tomorrow and the day after that.

My brother in law became a US citizen this week. This is big! Huge! I can’t say exactly how long it took, but more than twenty years in the making. He has lived in the US for years – but today he is home.

The thing is, we think we know. We don’t know. Until we go through it. So how do we create empathy? We can’t possibly live out every situation to really know how it feels. But we can listen. We can read. We can be open.

I suppose I was guilty of it, before moving to France. I didn’t understand what it is like to live in another country. Be a stranger. To be singled out. To be a minority. And I’m one of the lucky ones. I have every advantage at my fingertips. I wasn’t fleeing. Running. Hiding. I was moving for love. And yet, I experienced the fear, the uncertainty. I know millions of people feel this daily. Some are unwelcomed because they are immigrants. Others because of the color of their skin. Their religion. Their social status. Reason after reason.

But being empathetic is not merely feeling the pain of others. Being empathetic means you also get to feel the joy. And maybe that’s the hook. Seeing the special. Not discriminating. Not tolerating. But celebrating. Different doesn’t have to be bad. Shouldn’t have to be bad.

So today we celebrate. We welcome my brother in law to this giant experiment. I am in France. He is in the USA. Neither of us camping. Bravo, Pascal!

Joie de vivre!


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A soft touch.

The dentist told me that I’m brushing my teeth too hard. That was humbling. You’d think after brushing my teeth this long, I would know how to do it. “Doucement,” she said. (Meaning gently.)

When they say it never rains here, it’s not like the song…we live in one of the sunniest parts of the world. It’s in my nature not to waste it. While the sun is shining I think, “I can do this, and this, and don’t forget… keep going…” And I like it. I enjoy it. I need it. But once in a while, it’s in my best interest to just slow down a little. The universe, being much more wise, saw that maybe it was time for me to be calm. But it took a darkening of the skies, and a few loud rumbles to make it happen.

I turned on my desk lamp. Opened my sketchbook. Took out the colored pencils. Rolled them through my fingers. I like the sound of the wood clinking with possibility. I sketched out a bird. Slowly. Colored in it’s wings. Feathers. Found a pastel stick to create the white areas. Pastels require the softest of touch. Doucement. And there was my bird. My gentle, little, rainy day bird.

Sometimes we are hardest on ourselves. Impatient. Unforgiving. And we need a little reminder to be gentle. Take this bird to be just that. And be kind today — to yourself. Hold the pastel of your heart softly, without judgement, and know that it’s not wasteful to be still. It’s healthy, necessary. Doucement, my friends…Doucement.


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What a relief.



I will admit that I buy Q-tips with tan bamboo sticks because they match the palette of my bathroom.

When you don’t have to explain this, then you know you have found your tribe. And what peace! What joy! What a relief to be yourself.

Conversations with my daughter-in-law are labored, her English, my French. But we have connected through a common palette. We both love the calming natural colors. She walked through my office and softly touched the tans and creams and whites and blacks. We laughed and smiled, both understanding the extensive joy that only a box of Jonathon Adler matches can evoke. Connected. Family.

When I was young, I remember people saying things like “you’ll find your way home,” “you’ll find love.” But maybe we have it wrong. I’m not sure any of it is found, but instead brought to life, nurtured, traveled, lived. And when it’s right, it’s as comforting as your signature palette. No performing, or worrying, just being. Oh, how I wish that for everyone! The comfort of your palette. The pleasure of your path.


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Seven or eight good naps.

Certainly I have never been mistaken for normal. But what does that even mean? And should it be something we strive for?

The world is ready at a moment’s notice to tell us what is good. What is beautiful. Right down to the color of the year. Do people actually paint their interiors because they saw a color survey on Instagram? We are bombarded with what we “must have” from Amazon. What everyone is buying from IKEA. Fast fashion from H & M. 

I guess we are filled with this from the day we are born. We are told what is beautiful. What is good. It used to be Norman Rockwell that captured the moment. And if you didn’t have the father at home smoking a pipe by the fireplace, then you weren’t supposed to be happy. You weren’t complete. They showed us in books and on television. If you didn’t drive the right car, or drink the right cola, how could you be happy?  

I gave up those standards long ago – some by choice, others by force, but it all turned out to be a gift. I got to make my own standards. My own happiness. 

We always ask each other in the morning “did you sleep well?” “Why not” is our usual response. We have different sleeping habits, my husband and I, neither “perfect.” Rarely do either of us sleep “all in a row.” And certainly not for eight hours. And I suppose I used to think, well, I must have slept badly. But years ago, I gave that up. Why was it bad? Did I sleep some? Rest some? How do I feel? Fine? Then what was so bad? So when he asked me this morning, “très bien dormi?” I replied, “I had seven or eight really good naps.” 

It’s going to be a great day!


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“Fall”ing.

I love summer. I won’t deny it. But I’m not going to live for it, only it. I would lose so much. The colors of autumn. The crackles underfoot. There is a peace that comes. A slower speed. A much needed rest.


It takes me a bit to see it. To feel it. To remember my sweater. Sock my feet and close the doors. But the never-ending song of the birds in our trees reminds me — there is a melody here — a song of the season — worthy of being sung. Sung without the pining away for green. Sung for the beauty of now.


I shuffle in the fallen leaves. Grab my brushes and capture the soft colors, the non- demanding colors of autumn. And I see it. The beauty of this autumn day.


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The fourth R.

In grade school, they called them the three Rs — reading, writing, and arithmetic. We had so much to learn, I guess we never questioned it. Years later, I was talking with a friend about it. He said, “You know, arithmetic doesn’t start with an R…” “Not to mention writing,” I replied. We laughed!

My husband and I love to visit antique stores. Traveling through the US, we get a feel for each part of the country as we thumb through the stories they leave behind. Stories that, if touched, or purchased, become part of ours. I love pins and patches. I fill my jackets. They become roadmaps of our travels. I picked up a high school letter. It was in great condition. The letter R. I held it up to Dominique. “Isn’t it great!” I said.
“What does the R stand for?” he asked. And without missing a beat, he answered his own question — Rtist. We laughed for about 20 minutes as I carried it through the store. Still laughing as I purchased it at the counter. (Still laughing as I type this.) My fourth R! Reading, writing, arithmetic, artist.

I fell in love with Dominique all over again! He knows me. I never question it.

This last trip to Alexandria, I found a plain gray sweatshirt. Yesterday, back in France, in the sewing room with the picture of my Grandma Elsie (a great seamstress), I sewed the R in place. Attached a couple of pins. Added the “tist” to my “R” – and claimed once again, that I am an artist. What a joy! What a relief — to be yourself! To live the vocabulary of your own heart – my wish for you – every day!