Jodi Hills

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

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Find the good.

The first set of paper dolls I received was for my 7th birthday from Wendy Schoeneck. My mother had always taught me to smile when receiving a gift. I didn’t know why she had made such a point of it. I suppose up until then, I had always been thrilled with my presents. Wendy was smiling so intently, watching me tear the wrapping paper. So pleased with what was about to be revealed. I scraped the yellowed Scotch tape from the last reluctant piece, only to reveal, to my horror, Buffy and Jody paper dolls. Not only had they spelled my name wrong, but Jody was the boy. I glanced up at my mother. I knew she knew. I guess her constant reminders paid off, because I forced a smile in Wendy’s direction. She couldn’t seem to tell that it was more pain than gratitude.

We played music. Pinned the tail on the donkey. Dropped the clothespins in the bottle. Passed around the presents. Laughed and held sweaty hands in circles. All had been forgotten and forgiven.

One of my presents was a Winnie the Pooh giant story book. We all started to sing the Pooh song, when one of the girls noticed that Winne the Pooh could quickly and easily be translated to Wendy the Pooh. Others joined in. Some giggled. But not Wendy. I knew she felt bad. I opened the box of paper dolls and my mom got out the scissors. We cut out the clothes and quickly forgot about both Poohs. It was a good gift after all. Wendy was smiling. My mom was smiling. And so was I, for real this time.

Sometimes it’s hard to see life’s gifts. They often come ill-wrapped at unwelcomed times. But even the hardest day is kind enough to pass. Find the good. It’s out there.



Maybe with girls, it’s all about timing.

There wasn’t a swing for every girl at Washington Elementary. When your class was released for recess, the playground had to be divided and navigated. It was always a race out the back door to the swingset. These weren’t just ordinary swings. They were the tallest that any of us had ever seen.  With the help of your best friend pushing from behind, you could reach unimaginable heights. Deals were always struck minutes before recess. Partnering off. Who would run. Secure the swing. The first one. The last. The ones in the middle. Who would ride first. Push first. We learned early on, working together, we’d all get to fly! 

We didn’t have phones with stop watches. We didn’t even have watches. But somehow we knew. Because friends were known. Some days you just needed a little extra time. Maybe the spelling test was harder for one. Maybe the new boy teased you. Whatever the reason, it never had to be explained, just a look, a look that said, I need an extra turn. And it was always given. 

I have a few friends like this still today. We know each other’s timing. When to push. When to step back and just watch you fly! Knowing the roles could be reversed at any given moment. Timing — impossible to monitor electronically — it can only be measured by the heart. 

I’m feeling strong today. Just give me the look, and when the doors are flung open, I’ll race to secure the swing. Today, my friend, it’s your turn to fly!


It suits you so.

It was July 2nd in 1994 that we saw Robert Goulet perform in Camelot. I know the date because my mom wrote it in her journal. She kept record of all the important things. Where we went. The dresses we wore. Because unlike in the song, one of her favorites by Robert Goulet, “I won’t send roses,” he sings, “I won’t send roses, or hold the door. I won’t remember which dress you wore.” And when she sang the last line, “and roses suit you so,” she meant it for me, and most importantly, she meant it for herself. 

She played that record again and again to get the point across. What a lesson to learn! A lesson every woman should embrace and pass on. You have to know your worth, and be prepared to accept nothing less, to give nothing less.

We sat side by side in that theatre in Minneapolis, listening to him sing the “impossible dream,” knowing, we had always, would always “run, where the brave do not go!” 

Today, when I play fashion show, (and I play a lot), there is a bit of vanity involved, sure, but there is so much more. I am my mother’s daughter, daring to bare shoulders and heart. Daring to give the love that I want in return. In front of the mirror, in my black and white dress, a black as dark as Mr. Goulet’s mustache and hair, my heart sings, because I am dressed to receive all the “roses” this life can offer. It is written in her journal, inscribed in my soul — it suits me so.

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Judy “Blumed.”

We were sitting on the stools in the 7th grade science lab, trying to erase the smell of gas from our brains, and the face of the boy that always turned it on and laughed. Each tick of the clock brought us closer to the bell. I paid close attention because there was no time to waste. The science lab was at the far end of Central Junior High, near the pool. My next class was social studies with Mr. Temple at the complete opposite end on the second floor. The allotted 5 minutes allowed just enough time to run to my locker, change my books and be seated in the classroom. Because it wasn’t enough to be racing through the door at the sound of the bell. He demanded that you were seated, ready to learn, when it sounded, or you would get detention. Detention — the horror. The humiliation. I had never received it. And I was proud of that. So I sat in the “starter’s position,” ready to race to social studies. The bell rang and I jumped. I was nearly out the door when I heard her gasp. I turned to see my lab partner (and friend) glued to her stool, mouth open. There wasn’t time, but she looked at me so desperately. I ran back. She whispered in my ear. She got her period. I looked at the clock. Looked at her face. Took off my sweatshirt for her to wrap around her waist. And went with her to the bathroom. 

The bell rang before I had even left the floor. When I ran through his door, he was standing at the front of the room, detention slip in hand. He wasn’t unreasonable. He always gave you the chance to defend yourself. I suppose I could have given the full “Judy Blume” version of it all, but the whole class was listening. I shook my head, and held out my hand to grab the slip.

We had no idea of forever at the time. We lived minute by minute. And were willing to give up 60 of them, detained after hours, just to save each other. She asked me the next day in Mr. French’s class, “Did you get in trouble?” “No,” I smiled, “no trouble at all.”