Jodi Hills

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

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At any measure.

In the seventh grade at Central Junior High School, for approximately one week, it was decided that all students would learn the metric system. This foreign secret of measure, based in 10s and 100s, was brought out like a dirty, family secret on a Monday afternoon, and by bus time on Friday, we never spoke of it again. 

I’m not sure why we gave up, but as I struggle to convert grams to cups and kilos to pounds, I think it may have been useful. I never imagined that I would take pride in being able to weigh myself in another country, but here I am.

Through the years, the metric system became very low on the scale of “I wonder why we never talked about it.” There are so many things that got brushed under the rug. So many hurts. So many feelings. Confusions. As I stand here smiling before the scale, I imagine how many other things could have been so much easier had we only talked about them. I don’t say this in regret, but as a prompt, to keep things out in the open. Feel them as I feel them. A reminder to wear my heart on my sleeve and my face, giving it away at any measure.

Adding the flour to the bread dough this morning, I don’t use cups, nor grams. I have done it so often, I go by feel. A mixture of farine complète and farine de blé, my own special recipe. And it feels right. It feels like me. Heart wide open — this is where life becomes delicious!


Coffee and love.

I remember the last coffee my mom and I had with my grandma. She was sitting at her round table when we opened the door. An empty cup with coffee grounds just within reach. I bent down to hug her. She reached up her arms to grab hold. So frail. She started to push herself up against my shoulders.  “No, no… you don’t have to get up.”  “Yes, I do,” she said, “You’re here.” I knew I was loved.

Most of her cups were stained. Not dirty, but showed the years of use. We took two from the cupboard and sat with her. I had just sold a painting. I remember telling her for how much, and she made the big “OOOOOH” sound with her rounded mouth and clapped her hands together. With that one sound, I received more than any payment. 

It wasn’t long before her head was asleep against her fist. We washed the cups and helped her to bed. The waft of coffee and love followed us out the door.

I suppose that’s why I write the stories each day — to keep the smell of love brewed alive and following. My grandma’s love. My mother’s love. 

Not that long ago, I was struggling through the tears of tenderness. I was writing this daily blog. A dear friend told me, “You don’t have to do it every day.” “Yes, I do,” I replied, “She was here.”

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The clinking of spoons.

It wasn’t instant cocoa, but it didn’t take long. My mom heated the milk on the stove and added the Nestle Quick. She poured it into grown-up mugs and handed us spoons. We stirred vigorously, and much longer than necessary, immersing ourselves in the healing. Because it was usually when we were sick, a cold, or touch of the flu, or just a bad day at school — this was when she made the cocoa. And then the bread popped out of the toaster at just the right time. Buttered, we dunked it into the steaming cocoa, because that’s really all it was for, and we were, if not healed, at least saved. 

Two pieces of toast – that was usually enough for me. I was young, and full of feelings. Some might have thought me as weak. Often full of tears and poems, but I knew. I could see it. Some days, it took my brother a full loaf of bread. He was bigger, faster, taller, but even then I was pretty sure it was me – I was stronger. 

You have to get inside to know. Hear the clinking of spoons. The beating of hearts. To be sure. Outer appearances can be so deceiving. I encourage you today to really look. Really listen to those around you. Because it takes more than an instant to know someone. To know what they need. To immerse ourselves in the lives of others. And maybe, just maybe, if we do, take the time, we will all be saved.

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Shoe horned.

From the outside it looked like any other shoe store. The shoes were brightly lit against the wall. So many choices. I had a pair in mind. In the past few days I had searched for them. Rifled through the stores with boxes all in a row. Never matching the right color with the right size. I wasn’t all that hopeful, but I asked the man for my size in a few possibilities. He went in the back and returned, behind a stack. He kneeled down in front of me. And started unlacing the shoes. I reached down, but he said, “I’ve got this.” Suddenly I was 6 years old at Iverson’s shoes. He opened the laces around the tongue. I pointed my toes and he shoehorned my foot inside. All I wanted to do was run around the store to see if they were fast. He went in the back to grab a few more, and I did. And they were. I loved them.

I placed them in the “probably” chair next to me, and tried on the rest. It was always the first pair. That first perfect pair. I tried them on three times in between the others, just to be sure, just to return to my first love. 

I said I hoped I wasn’t wasting his time. It’s funny that we are conditioned to go there. “Absolutely not,” he said. He was cheerful and kind. Offered to spray the shoes to protect from the elements. I joyfully agreed, even knowing the whole while I would never expose these beauties to such things.  

Some might say it is only nostalgia. Maybe a little. And I don’t think it’s just about service. It’s about being seen. Having an interaction with another human. An exchange of kindness. This is now. Forever. 

It took years to grow into my size nines. To stand on my own. But I didn’t get there by myself. No one does. And if we can offer it from both sides, this grace of giving, this grace of receiving, then maybe life will be a little sweeter, always fast, but a little more joyful, as we slip gently against the smooth path, easing ourselves into the journey. 



Amid the words.

It turns out the coffee I held in my hand was not really a coffee at all, but a Time Machine. I hadn’t seen him in years. It was Dominique who saw him first – this man staring in our direction, watching me. I was busy touching every book cover, reading every title in this Barnes and Noble.  I almost ran into him. I looked up and seeing his face my brain flashed with words of Emily Dickinson, for he had always given me books of poetry. I wanted to say, “In the name of the Bee — And of the Butterfly — and of the Breeze — Amen!”  But all I could say, all we both could say was, “Oh, my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! The words squeezed between us as we hugged away all the distance of space and time. 

Words tumbled out, almost incoherent, as I tried to introduce him to Dominque. I said something like spiritual leader, guide, friend, I don’t know. Because as Roethke said in his poem, he had no rights in my matter, he was “neither father, nor lover.” But oh, how he mattered to me. 

Dominque and I just celebrated our 8th anniversary, but it was here, in this Barnes and Noble, I was walked down the aisle.  He told Dominique how very special I was. How lucky he was. Words I would have imagined to hear from a father or brother. Words I never really even let myself dare the hope to hear, but he offered them so freely yesterday. Above the din of all the stories, he said mine aloud. Maybe it’s not even correct anymore for a girl, a woman, to want to hear it, need to hear it, but I can say now, how good it actually felt. He told Dominque to take care of me. He said I love you. And on this day before Valentine’s Day, I felt like I got married again. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, Dominique! I love you! I would marry you again and again. I will say all the words above the words and write new ones and arrange them to tell you I love you, now and forever. 

And Happy Valentine’s Day to all those along the way who show us that love is possible. That we are possible of giving. Of receiving. Love. 


The shape of love.

Just one letter separated the two words. And barely even a letter, only the slightest curve between the “a” and the “o”. Hallowed. Hollowed. They were in the poem she sent me. It was beautiful for so many reasons, but for me, this tiniest of movements that could change one word to another, one emotion to another, filled me with hope, filled me with love.

That’s why I have always loved words. Books. Therein lies the possibilities.

We went to Book in Bar yesterday – my favorite bookstore in Aix. The comfort was palpable. As we stood by the coffee bar, waiting for our cappuccinos, I saw it. Flâneuse, by Lauren Elkin. A Chicago friend had tagged me in a post about it just the day before. I have never been one to ignore magic, so I picked it up, sat with it at our table. Hallowed.

I suppose I think, if I live in the word, I might too possess the skills to make the same changes. To take an empty day, and fill it.

As I wander (the meaning of flâneuse) through the “a”s and “o”s of my day, I will choose the magic. Choose the hope of each word and place it into that hollow part of my heart, and fill it. I will write my story. Live my story. Share my story. For I have to believe — it’s the most beautiful magic of all!

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Love served.

Coffee has been around for about 500 years, and I’ve been drinking it almost as long. Within these centuries, it has changed again and again — Now with drink orders that contain over 500 words themselves. 

Still, perhaps the most popular drink here in France is the espresso. 

They gave us two espresso cups (demitasses) from their vacation. I made the coffee from our espresso machine. Nothing unusual. But when I picked up the cup, it felt different. Easy. Comfortable. I put the cup down and looked at the handle. The top part was flat. My thumb rested so simply, and made the most pleasurable grip on the cup. Such a simple change, and the coffee was the same, but the drinking experience felt new and delightful.

We get used to receiving things in a certain way. Giving things in a certain way. And just because it has functioned for 500 years or so, doesn’t mean it’s really working at its best. Take love for instance. We all give it and receive it in different ways. When it doesn’t come in the way we think we need, is it wrong? I want to say no. Oh, how I want to say no. I need to see it for what it is. Still love. I must learn to receive it in the way it is given. And serve it in the best way I know how. Love and life, forever can improve.

Good morning, my friends. There is coffee on the table. And kindness in the air.


Oh, how the light streams in!

It’s easy to confuse darkness with worry. I’ll admit I can drape myself in it — in those wee, small hours of the morning. I make the coffee just a little stronger. Force the croissant past the lump in my throat. Still, it can cling, those worries that come only from loving someone.

But then I walk into our office space. Surrounded by windows. And the light! Oh, how the light streams in and bounces off of my work. From paintings to poems, it says, “Look here. Right now. There is light.” And joyfully, I believe in it. I believe in the prayers said under my grandma’s quilt. I believe in the hope that each morning brings. I believe in the beauty of now. There is no “down the road,” only looking at the length that stretches from my heart to my hands. And they both know what to do. I smile. And begin. In this glorious light.


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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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.