Jodi Hills

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


Leave a comment

Rolling.

I didn’t know my great aunt Ellen very well.  It was clear though, that she was the opposite of my grandmother. In size, weight, humor, and day to day living. She seemed to be afraid of life itself. She was thin as a rail, but watched everything she ate. She didn’t drink coffee, only hot water. She carried what she called a purse-snatchers purse — a decoy, while her important items were stashed in a different location. She also wore extra undergarments, just in case… I was too young to know in case of what.  

I hope there was more to her life than I remember. Otherwise, I’m not sure that she really lived. 

On occasion, my grandmother must have worried. She had nine children. Pick any day, and something had to have gone wrong. John got kicked in the head by a cow. Kay had rheumatic fever. The crops needed rain. But through it all, she never seemed paralyzed by daily fear. She seemed more to be rolling. She was chubby and laughing and  always believed in the good. She died thinking she was just about to win the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. 

I will admit that I get frightened by many things. We all do. But I try to keep rolling, even when my tears are doing the same – I keep rolling. Because I, too, believe in the good. And I don’t want to be paralyzed by fear. I want to be known, always remembered, in full stride, with my purse of youth dangling from my arm. Alive.


Leave a comment

How it should be.

It was at the State Theatre in Minneapolis that I first heard the Indigo Girls. Dayton’s used to put on an extreme fashion show each year for charity. Oh, just saying Dayton’s does something to my heart.) The theatre was dark and suddenly they blasted the intro for Fugitive by the Indigo girls, and the first model stepped out. It was a mixture of clothes and music, and city and night, art and diversity, and they sang, “Remember this as how it should be.” Oh, how I wanted to remember. 

My mother and I loved Dayton’s. Saturday mornings. Always before lunch. Trying on clothes at our thinnest. No need for food. We were fueled. Hands gently touching racks. Filling dressing rooms. Mirrors admired. Compliments given. Hearts full. Then with hands bagged it was off to lunch. To sip at the wine, and pull out each item, tell the story, live it with laughter and praise, and before I knew the words to the song I thought, “Remember this as how it should be.”

I was mowing the lawn yesterday. Listening to a podcast. They were interviewing the Indigo Girls. I couldn’t hear every word over the hum of the motor, but my heart… I can’t tell you what the models were wearing that beautiful evening, but I can recreate the feeling of hope and desire and pure excitement for a life recognized. I don’t recall every garment tried on or purchased with my mother, but as I sit here in my new Saturday morning, my heart is filled with laughter and praise. 

I suppose that’s the way it is for everything. And that’s how it should be — the experience. Today we plan to go visit a vineyard. I know I will forget the wine. Probably even the place. But the time…my heart is already singing.


Leave a comment

New!

I don’t think it’s too spot on that this city is called New — New York. Every time I come here it does feel new, and probably more importantly, so do I! “Ok,” I ask myself, “what are you going to see, learn, create from all of this?” Because it’s easy to lose the magic. Magic relies on both the magician and the viewer – you have to want to see it. And, oh, how I want to see it, be it! I always have – probably because I grew up with a magician.

When I was a little girl, we heard the tales of New York, Paris… heard that everyone dresses up there — everything is elevated. I’ve been to both cities, many, many times, and it may not be completely true any more, not for everyone, but I still believe in it — this dressing for success — I suppose my mother taught me that. And it was never about “putting on airs”, it was more about being good enough, and I don’t mean for “them,” (whoever they are) I mean proving to yourself that you are in fact good enough, good and enough, more than enough to walk along, beside, within, outside, along, every day in this world.

When I was a teenager, inside our humble apartment, each morning before 7am, my mother worked her own magic. She pulled out a neatly hung ensemble from her small bedroom closet, freshly ironed, and got dressed for the Superintendent’s Office of School district 206. She was tall and thinned by angry words that no woman should ever hear. But she was beautiful. Beautiful because she made the choice to release herself from the pain, and become new! She made the choice, every day, to present her best self. And I smiled and cheered, front row.

So today I will walk down this New York street with my head held high, out of respect for my mother, my self, and this magical new day!!!! As the song says, “It’s a new dawn, a new day, it’s a new life, and I’m feelin’ good!”


Leave a comment

Heart on my sleeve.

In my small hometown, there was a large department store, named Herberger’s. For those of you unfamiliar, you could call it a Dayton’s, Marshall Field’s, Macy’s, Dillard’s…a rose by any other name. It was the anchor store of our Viking Plaza (or Vikedale as we so lovingly called it). And by my use of the word “was,” I’m sure you can see where this is going. Funny how we didn’t. We assumed it would always be there. For shopping, of course! But more than that. For social interaction. Walking inside on cold and snowy days. Visiting. Encouraging. Living.


The first time my French husband visited Alexandria, we went out to Herberger’s with my mom. We entered near the shoe department. “Hi Ivy!” she said as she handed the shoes to her customer. Sue in the bra department waved. “Hi Ivy!” she said from women’s wear. The manager of the store stopped and said hello as we went to men’s wear. This was a normal day for us. We, my mom and I had grown up together at Herberger’s. Survived lonely Sunday afternoons there. Celebrated grand events there. Tried on clothes after clothes. Complimented each other. Gained our confidence. Grew our audience. Came to life. So it wasn’t strange to me when Claudia at the makeup counter asked my mom if she was feeling dizzy because she knew my mother – knew her history – her health. But my husband had this strange look on his face. “What?” I asked him. Does everyone know your mother here? “Sure,” I smiled. “It’s Herberger’s. She’s probably like the mayor.”


When Herberger’s closed several years ago. It was a shock. We weren’t prepared to say goodbye, but then, I suppose, no one ever is. We had survived so many goodbyes before, and we would survive this one as well.


I was playing “fashion show” yesterday, in our home in France. I try on things in my closet. Put together a capsule wardrobe like I’m a star on Youtube…look in the bedroom mirror, then the bathroom, then the downstairs full length mirror that gets the best lighting… then into the salon to show my husband. When I first introduced him to the playing fashion show, I’m not sure he really understood the game, or that we were even playing… “You have to say lots of nice things about me…” “A little more…” He’s become an excellent player.


With each outfit change I am shouting with glee over the changing room walls, over the music playing on the speakers above us, racing my mother to the best lit mirror (of course she had that figured out!). We weren’t wrong when we assumed that it would always be with us. It is! Herberger’s is alive and well in the south of France.


Leave a comment

I have to believe.

I graduated high school with a cast on my ankle. I graduated college with a full length cast on one leg and an ankle cast on the other. I had over 20 surgeries. And I never thought of myself as weak. I think if you carry, (sometimes kick) your backpack filled with hardcover books across an icy campus, while on crutches, you can consider yourself strong.

In between the plaster I wore what Fleet Farm would call work boots. I wore them with jeans. I wore them with dresses. If this had happened in today’s fashion world of “the clunkier boot the better,” no one would have noticed, but I was well ahead of my time. And they did get noticed, and people were not always complimentary.

My mother, knee deep in grief during my teenage years, found a way to get herself dressed, and not just dressed, looking good dressed, fashionable well beyond her monetary and emotional means dressed, carrying herself with dignity, with purpose, with strength well ahead of her time. How could I not put on a pair of boots and believe that my feet would take me where I need to go?

Yesterday I wrote in permanent marker all over my Dr. Martens. These boots, I thought, need to tell the story I’ve been writing for years. These boots need to walk in the strength of all the words that have carried me. Remind me of where of where I’ve been. Take me, wherever I need to go. I believe.


Leave a comment

The horse on Michigan Ave.

The Ralph Lauren (RL) restaurant in Chicago was the reason I painted this horse. We had just finished shopping a marathon on Michigan Avenue, my mom and I, and we stopped — not really choosing this restaurant for the culinary experience, but the location. Our feet agreed this was the place for a break. Our table faced the wall of photographs and paintings. All elegantly lit. Draping our hearts in mahogany. Glasses of wine refreshing and gently embellishing the glorious minutes of the day.


We were shoppers. Not big buyers. Perhaps it was the beauty of the clothing. The curated displays. The bustling sidewalks that didn’t care how we got there, but swept us up in a sea of acceptance. We were welcomed. Good enough. So we walked each street. Entered each store. Michigan Avenue didn’t know that we used to put items on lay-a-way in a small town in Minnesota. Michigan Avenue opened its doors, and we danced in and out.


We sat in the restaurant and smiled. Held up the few items we had purchased. Laughed. Praised. Clapped even. And sighed. Breathing in so deeply as to never forget the warmth of this day. The warmth of being together. The warmth of shared experience. The warmth of shared interests. The warmth that would carry us through the coldest of days.
There was a single horse on the wall. So elegant. Such grace. And so I painted that horse. It hangs in a bedroom across the sea, and takes me back to that street — that comfort — that joy — that rest — that warmth of time well spent.


Find your way to that place. It’s waiting, just for you.


3 Comments

Go higher.

We almost past by this store yesterday, until we saw the sign, “This store voted number one in Midway, by owner.” We turned around and went inside. A store with a little pride and a big sense of humor, we couldn’t miss that! It was a delightful store. And we almost missed it. The people inside were welcoming. Funny. And they had great merchandise. And we saw it all because they presented themselves in the best manner. Maybe we could all do that.

Even at our most poor, my mother always looked like a star. She dressed well. Put on her make-up. Put on a smile, sometimes gutted there by pure will, but it was always there. She looked great! Still does. Because she cared. We were at the downtown Minneapolis Dayton’s store. It had many levels. The levels got more expensive with each escalator ride. She didn’t even look at the first level. At the second, she glanced around and said, “Ewwww, this looks like stuff we could afford…”. We laughed and went higher.

Through the years she found the sales. Put things on lay-a-way. Saved. Wished. Styled. And always looked wonderful. She taught me that. What a gift. It’s never about money. It’s about style. And if that style can include a little pride, self-esteem, and a great sense of humor, that will take you pretty far, and you’ll look good along the way.

She will always be voted #1 mother, (by her daughter.)