Jodi Hills

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


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Maybe we were all looking to be saved.

I was waiting for my mom to come out of the doctor’s room. I couldn’t go in with her. Covid. Most of the chairs were filled in oncology. The weight of that…things didn’t stop just because of Covid. People still got cancer. It filled the room. I sat on a small chair with a desk, just outside the door. The chair was formerly filled with a greeter I suppose, or support person — no longer able to be present. I opened the drawer. There was a pad and few crayons. I wrote a note and left it on top of the desk – “If you see this, I’m wishing you a good day.”


We had to go back to oncology the next morning. As we walked out the door, the woman working the front desk called out my name — “Thanks for writing that note!” she said. It travelled through the weight of the room and fit directly into my heart. She knew me. She saw me. And I was saved.


My grandfather told me years ago, if you want to feel better, focus on someone else. I often forget. And then he angel pokes my self-focusing heart, lifts my hand, and I try to do better. Always try to do better. And so I’m sending out the words again today, to cut through whatever weight is clouding your room, “If you see this, I’m wishing you a good day!” A good day that will save us all.


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Being small.

John Prine sings, “I remember everything…every single blade of grass holds a special place for me.” I hear the words in my heart and I’m back on VanDyke Road. It’s a summer day. Bits of green stick to my legs and I’m soaked in sun. Red shoulders. Cheeks. Carrying a plastic bow and arrow from Target. Arrows not strong enough to puncture the ground, but strong enough to make me a cowgirl, a big girl, as my mother told me to be. A big girl that could stay alone during school’s summer vacation and imagine a ranch of hired hands, working cattle and horses, and filling a backyard with “Big Valley” moments, “Bonanza” rescues, and every Disney movie hero. Only until 4:30, then my mom would come home from work. I let the bow drop from my hand into the blades of grass I counted. Each a different color of green. I dropped my arrow. And I was gloriously small. I was saved. She held me close. Every day. My heart beat full. I remember everything.


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Carry it with you.

I can get distracted. So easily. So many “shiny objects” in a day. And it’s easy to let things slip by. “I’ll email them tomorrow.” “I’m sure someone else has taken care of it.” “My vote doesn’t really count anyway.” We can justify almost anything. But can we? Really? Every day, we stand for something. Either by taking a stand, or not taking one. Everything matters. Everything counts. Now some might say, “Oh, lighten up…” But maybe that’s what I am doing. When I believe in something, love something, someone, stand for the things I believe in, it gives me great joy. Such great joy! And the thing is, nothing is lighter than joy. It’s so easy to carry it with you. I want that joy. And so I love and I live and dance my way through the shiny objects of the day, and then I pause. I stand. And I believe.


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A blink of blue

We decided to get lunch before taking pictures at the lake. It was a beautiful, sunny day when we went into the restaurant. We had the most delicious sushi. We stepped outside under a gray cloud. Wow – that changed quickly. Still, we went to the lake. The sky, was a mixture of grays and whites. Full of movement and rumble. It wasn’t the beauty we had seen just 45 minutes ago, but it was beautiful! We walked along the shore. The golden leaves popped out against the gray. The lake’s sky, as if to thank us for still coming out in the ever changing weather, blinked a brilliant shot of blue. It was so magnificent! It lit the air and my heart with hope.

Life moves and changes – often faster than we’d like, but we still need to show up. Find the beauty. And forever cling to even the smallest blink of blue, the promise of hope. Can you see it? Can you feel it? It’s beautiful!!


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No slip of beauty


I don’t know if she was born with it. Maybe all kids have it, if given the freedom. But she has something – some may call it confidence, or a lack of shame. Maybe it’s a mixture of both, combined with the essence of youth.


She isn’t afraid to try anything. And she isn’t afraid to fail. In fact, she doesn’t see it as failure. She can finish a painting that some may see as juvenile, or crude, but she thinks, “Voila!” – and couldn’t be more proud. She can put on a swimsuit, never giving a thought to her baby fat that still clings around the middle. Not a worry. She’ll even run in her swimsuit – (a nightmare for most of us.). She’ll sing songs with no idea of the lyrics. OUTLOUD! She attempts a new language with no fear of mispronouncing the words – in fact it’s your fault if you don’t understand. She dances. She laughs. She is a super hero!


I don’t what the years will bring. I don’t know what she’ll become. Who she’ll become. I only pray she keeps the tightest hold on this – whatever this is – this confidence, this youth, THIS!


I see it in her, and I can still feel my own. Feel myself flying on my banana seat bike, without boundaries or limitations. Believing! I am so grateful for the reminder she brings. And if she’ll let me, I will help her hold on, hold on with the might of youth, so she’ll never feel the fear that living can bring, the shame in any attempt, the slip of beauty. We need to protect her. Protect THIS! Celebrate THIS! We ARE her, we are THIS!


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Black barns.

I have never smoked. I don’t really care about tobacco, but I was interested in the black barns of Kentucky. The woman at the tourist office told us they were used for tobacco. The black kept the barn hotter, and helped in curing the tobacco. So many are no longer in use, but I think they are still beautiful. They are so different from the red barns I grew up with.

We stopped at the Muhammad Ali museum in the next leg of this journey. I was never a boxing fan, but I was interested in the man. He was not a perfect human, but I haven’t seen one yet. I do know that he helped raise awareness for Parkinson’s Disease, the Olympics, the Civil Rights movement, and being human. I think that is beautiful.

It’s getting harder and harder to know who and what we are supposed to like anymore. We are constantly being told you can’t like this painter because he said bad things. Can’t like this music because the singer was a drug user. Can’t shop here, they support the wrong ideas. Can’t be friends with them, they voted wrong. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to eat that chicken.

And I want to support the things I believe in. I really do. But I want to know the world. Experience different things. Meet different people. Eat some chicken. So what do I do? What do we do?

If I write about something you aren’t interested in one day, does that negate the 20 other times you laughed or cried when you read my words. I hope not. I hope we can all be open to each other. I hope we can all believe in different things, and still be kind to each other. Walk different paths, and be open. Look differently. Laugh differently. And still believe in love.

I will sketch the black barns. The champion horses. The beautiful losers just wandering the field. And maybe when I get home I will paint the black barn. I don’t think my red barn will mind at all. I want to find the beauty. I think it’s even there in the search. Probably there, most of all.


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Beating.

There is no vacation from your heart. It’s forever with you.

Even as we travel, I always take time to create something. Daily blogs. Sketches. Small paintings. It’s who I am. It’s my heart. I don’t need a break from my own beating.


I started painting and writing when I was five or six years old. My mother says I would go into my bedroom, and no matter what I was feeling, it would end up on paper. Felt. Resolved. I know I am one of the lucky ones. Not because I have something I love to do – I believe everyone has that – but because I knew what it was early. And continue to do it.


Every bird in the sky, and each of us on the ground were put here to do something. Find your reason. For yourself and for the world. The scariest part I suppose is claiming your gift. Daring to do it. Once you’re doing it, you’re doing it. No fear in flight.
You can flap and flutter all you want. Fighting it. Digging your feet in the ground. But your heart won’t rest. Each beat telling you – “Just do it already. I’m right here with you.“


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Charmed.

I have visited 48 out of 50. (Sorry Alaska and Hawaii) I believe you can find something good everywhere. It takes a little effort, but you can find it. There’s one thing, though, that I believe can’t be faked, and that’s charm. Charm is palpable. When driving into a city, I can almost tell immediately if I would like to stay.

We usually pull into the nearest Starbuck’s for the boost in wi-fi and caffeine. At every Starbucks, I can get a non-fat, extra hot vanilla latte, and it will taste the same, but the experience, no…. In some states, cities, there are people with charm. I’ve tried to put my finger on why, and I’ve come up with a few possible answers. People in these cities have similar qualities – they are proud of their city, and interested in where you have come from. I guess this is education, and curiosity. This beams from their faces, welcomes you, and you can really feel it. The people who are curious, light up when we say we have come from France. “WOW!” they say. (And it deserves a wow – we’ve come a long way!). The educated know about their city. Big or small. They can lead you to the interesting and photo worthy. These people make travel exciting. Exhilarating. They inspire!

A couple of days ago we pulled into a city (I won’t say the name. I don’t want to offend.) Inside the Starbucks I gave my order to dead eyes – and they got the order wrong. I explained the order again to dead eyes. I asked about the area. Nothing. Nothing from the six eyes that looked back at me. Nothing when I mentioned France. Nothing when I asked about their city – in fact they said go to the next city. This made me sad. Made me want to leave. We did leave, soon after.

This is rare, but devastating. Not for us really, we have a ticket out, but for them. What do you have to live for if you don’t like where you are, and you don’t care about what else is out there? Now some may say, well that’s not fair, maybe they’re poor. And I understand that, but it’s not only about that. I’ve been poor. Very poor. And we have visited poor, and have been charmed. A couple of years ago we stopped into the smallest town in Arkansas. One store. It had coffee, candy, some groceries. The sign on the door said he would be back in a few minutes. We waited. He was. “So sorry,” he said while arriving. “I had to go to the doctor.” We smiled. No worries. “Where you from?” “France.” “Wow!” He said. Giving us free coffee. A free magnet – a razorback from his beloved state. He was happy and welcoming. We spoke of his little town, his health, his interests, our travels, and I will never forget this charming man, in this yes, charming place.

If the goal is to live a charmed life, and for me I think it is, then open your mind and your heart. Learn everything you can. Be curious about everything. Everyone. The world is a magical place. People can be delightful. Life can be beautiful. Everywhere.


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Find the good.

I don’t have all the answers. But I have a lot of them (that work for me). And I guess that’s the key.  

You know what’s best for you. You know what will fulfill you. You set the bar for yourself. Others’ successes do not hurt you. Be happy for them. Others’ failures do not lift you.

They may not even feel they’ve failed. They get to decide that for themselves. You have the answers for you.

I was about to say that yesterday was a bit of a stressful day, but I’m stopping myself because the day itself was actually perfect. The day was sunny, open, and offered every opportunity.  There were stressful moments though, within this lovely day. And in those moments, this is where all the work pays off. This is when I need to use all the tools I have been given, created, found, discovered – that work for me. First on the list is always my happiest of places – the painting studio. I took out my bird sketchbook, and penciled in the first bird. My heart rate slowed. I took out the paints. I must have been smiling. The paint moved from palette to brush to paper (sometimes to fingers and clothes), and I became the weight of the bird. I let him dry and did the second one. I know what calms my heart. The day held the same ingredients of every good day I have ever experienced – it was up to me to find it. Find the good.  

Today is beginning with the same sun. The birds are singing, as if to remind me who I am. I smile because I know the song. I know myself. It’s going to be a wonderful day.  



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Cardinal on my sleeve.

We sang a cheer in high school –


“We are the cardinals!

Mighty, mighty cardinals!

Everywhere we go – oh,

people wanna know – oh,

who we are,so we tell ’em…

We are the cardinals… (and repeat and repeat)


I never thought about it then, really, but what a lesson. I’m not sure that people often describe cardinals as mighty, but we did. And why not? It was our decision after all. We were cardinals. That was the mascot we were given. We could choose to wear it proudly, or sink behind someone else’s fragile truth.

So the black and red became a symbol of strength to us. A symbol of celebration in victory. A symbol of perseverance in loss. And we were nothing, if not mighty!


You get to decide what makes you strong. You get to decide who you are. Stand up in the colors you were given, and the colors you create. Even with the most fragile of wings, you can choose to be mighty!

I paint the birds again and again. They are my heart. My fragile, but ever-winged, mighty heart! The heart I wear proudly on sleeve, and in song, because I still think, maybe, you just “might wanna know – oh…”