Jodi Hills

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


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Sparks flying.

“On the days that I can’t create something beautiful, at least let me have the wisdom to see it.” Jodi Hills

Shawn, Pat and Kalee, my cousins in Minneapolis, had a saying. I lived in a small town two hours away, so I didn’t know if everyone said it, or if it was just them. I didn’t really care. I liked it and picked it up immediately. If something wasn’t any good, (in their opinion), like a tv show, for instance, they said it was “beat.” They had cable tv, so as they flipped through the summer daytime shows, over and over I heard, “that’s so beat.”

Once beaten through all the channels, we went down to their basement. It smelled of laundry and the perm solution my aunt used on hair of the neighborhood ladies. They had something new they said. Something so not beat. It was a way to make small rubber animals. I was intrigued. There was a “solution.” Poured into a hot iron mold. Tweezers to pull it out. This glue-like smell overpowered the “perm” solution. The electrical sockets were filled. Our fingers partially burned. But within hours, we were still alive, hadn’t burned the house down, and we possessed one green plastic frog, a spider, and something a little harder to identify. In less time than they took to create, they were lost in the neighbor’s pool.

My husband has old tools, parts, some unidentifiable things, from his father and grandfather. We could make a sculpture! I could see the figure as I pulled out the parts. There was a head. Arms. Legs. It’s perfect. He showed me how to weld. Masked. Sparks flying! This is so not beat, I thought!

It sits in our entryway. Under one of my paintings. Next to our picture. Above the book entitled, Wisdom.
My daily reminder to create something beautiful. And on the days that I can’t, I pray for the wisdom to see it. Take a look around, and you will too!


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As I flutter by.

I was more following it, than chasing it. Fluttering really. Doing my best to keep up. My grandfather didn’t really imagine that I could catch this butterfly, so his warning was light, but effective. “Don’t touch the wings,” he said. Me, still imagining my chubby legs were a match for these wings, questioned, “But why? They’re so pretty!’ He explained something about the powder rubbing off…they could lose their ability to fly. “You don’t want that to happen,” he said. Of course not. But just a bit of that desire remained. A bit of that doubt.

I didn’t have google at the time. Nothing to fact check. He had never lied to me. So I just kept fluttering. 

When I reached school age, I learned more. The challenge of the caterpillar to “become.”  It seemed unimaginable. Unbelievable! How did it survive — and not just survive, but turn into something so incredibly beautiful? I read it in books. Saw the images. But really?  How could this be?

I counted the sleeping pills on my mother’s nightstand. She was so sad. I didn’t know how long a human could cocoon. Nobody taught me that. 

But somehow, there would be proof in her wings. And I got to flutter beside her. And she beside me. Nothing more magical than that.

The fragile colors came to life in my sketchbook yesterday. Each with a hope and prayer that we could all be that gentle with one another. We could flutter, and flatter, and lift, and love. We could give each other the time needed to change. To grow. To become. We could give each other the chance to fly — just a smiling thought this morning, as I flutter by.


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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!