Jodi Hills

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


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Wobble.

I got up early to do my yoga. I brought the mat in another room so I wouldn’t wake up Dominique. Same house. Same routine. Just a new perspective. In this practice, it is necessary to focus on an object to retain your balance in the poses. This morning, my focal point was different. And oh, how I wobbled. What was so different? I know this room. And yet, this slight change completely threw off my balance. I’ll admit I was a bit uncomfortable. Not enough to quit. So I wobbled my way through.

Life changes constantly. We can’t prepare ourselves for everything. That would be impossible. But I think we can teach ourselves, little by little, to feel the discomfort, and work through it. It’s ok to feel uncomfortable. How else would we learn anything? Somewhere along the line, some big voice (maybe television, internet) told us that we have to be “happy” all the time, or we’re not living right. Now, I like happy — who doesn’t? But I also like feeling accomplished. I like feeling challenged. Feeling successful. Vulnerable. Creative. Open. Loved. And with all of these, you’re going to feel a little “wobble.” But this is also, (for me anyway) where the good stuff gets in –sneaks in as I fumble about.

In the last years, almost everything has changed for me. Country. Language. Surroundings. But these were the doors for love. So I opened them. Never have I felt more unbalanced. Never have I felt more loved.

Long before I ever imagined such a change, I wrote in my first book, “I am amazed that you let me fumble along beside you…” Still true — perhaps never more. So don’t be afraid. Wake up. Dare to dream. Dare to try. Dare to love. Dare to wobble.


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Feel like blooming.

There is something to the spring cleaning. The refresh. And it’s probably no surprise that the new Home Edit series was just released on Netflix. I will admit that I am excited by their organization. Inspired to do my own. This, mixed with trees in bloom, the flowers singing along with the birds, I begin.

I am not one who believes I have to buy more things to get my old things in order. No judgements, just me. I’ve always liked shopping my own dwelling. And I do. Frequently. I started with a good clean of the bathroom. Changed out the painting. Changed the postcard. Took the candle that I was gifted for Christmas out of its red container (red wouldn’t do) – put that candle into an appropriate container (a previously used up candle), and lit it, of course. And I picked a small flowering stem from our garden. As we say here, quite loosely I might add, Voila!

There is something quite satisfying about a spring refresh, and I slept well. The next morning, not quite awake, I turned on the bathroom light, and my heart smiled to the tips of my mouth. That, my friends, is refreshing.

I’ve started tackling my office. And it occurred to me, maybe I could do this within, within myself. An edit. Let go of the old feelings I’m not using anymore, the ones just cluttering up space, gathering dust…wouldn’t that be something! And even if it lasted for a day, a season, and I did it again, wouldn’t that, just like the spring birds, give my heart something to sing about! I think so! My inner voices must deserve as much attention as the shelf in my office. And so I begin. The load a little lighter, a little cleaner, in my house, in my heart. I smile, and feel like blooming.


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365 better days.

Practice makes perfect. I guess we heard that in school – though we rarely saw evidence of it. I practiced my clarinet. I missed notes. Often. So did Brenda, beside me. Even Jan, who sat first chair. But oh, how we played! And when our parents stood for us at the end of the spring concert, it was, as they say, perfection.

I went to volleyball practice, daily during the season. We never won a championship. But win or lose, legs stuck to the fake green leather seats of the bus, we sang, “We are the champions!”

I paint in my sketch book every day. I practice. Try new techniques. It doesn’t make me a perfect painter. (I’m not even sure what that would mean.) But it does make me perfectly happy. I feel like I make progress. I feel like I get better. And maybe that’s what the saying should have been all along. Practice makes better.

I have not missed a day writing this blog, not for 365 days. One solid year. That’s a practice. In the play “Rent,” there is a song, “Seasons of love.” In it they sing, “Five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes.
How do you measure, measure a year?” I have measured mine in paint strokes, and softball fields, summer vacations and childhood friends. Measured in tears and coffee cups, and hammers and nails, and libraries. In planes and croissants, and hugs, and laughter. Measured in each word I send out to you. Measured in each word you send back to me – and I am better because of it.

The sun is up. I’ve had my croissant with the one I love. Good morning, my beautifully imperfect world! Let’s get to practicing!


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Home town.

In Kindergarten, Mrs. Strand had the audacity to leave us mid year to give birth to twins. In the first grade, Mrs. Bergstrom, hair pulled back in a bun, wore her long pencil skirt and wool sweater all the way until summer break. We knew she would never leave. She taught us the meaning of the word trust, and then taught us how to spell it. She was opening our worlds. Then one day, she lined us up, single file, and quietly led us up the stairs, turned us to the left, opened the big wooden door. All was silent but for the singing of my heart’s choir! The library! All those books. A conversation from wall to wall. Information. Entertainment. Belonging. Yes, most of all the belonging. I knew I would be both comforted and launched — I suppose the perfect definition of home.


And I was home. Here in the words.


Yesterday we arrived in Laurel, Mississippi. Being an HGTV fan, I wanted to see it all. Where they filmed. What they made. The houses they transformed. People have told me, oh, you’ll be disappointed – it’s only make believe.


We pulled into town and the first thing I saw were the giant books painted on the side of the building. I smiled. I have always been one made to believe — the very day I stepped through the big wooden door at Washington Elementary. I know all is not always as it seems. But it is always what you choose to see. Today I choose to see the magic of it all — from the giant books on the side of a building to the promise of a small home town. It’s hard to hear the doubters over the singing of my heart.


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Body work.



Several times a year in school they would send a note home for us to give to our parents asking to collect for the food drive. My mother would laugh and say, “We’d just have to go pick it up later…”

I suppose you are only poor if you think you are poor. We never did.

We had an old blue station wagon. It started to rust around the wheel areas — Minnesota! My mother taught herself (without the internet) to sand it down, prime it, and paint it. We needed it to last. So she did the “body work.” And it did.

I suppose that’s why I write. I remember the stories, sand them down, paint them for all the world to see. Because they are our greatest assets. The lessons. The love. The work. They keep us rich, and, oh, how I, we, need them to last.




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Fortune.

In grade school we made simple origami “fortune tellers.” Parts of the “fortune teller” were labeled with numbers that served as options for a player to choose from, and on the inside were eight flaps, each concealing a message. The person operating the fortune teller manipulated the device with their fingers, based on the choices made by the player, and finally one of the hidden messages was revealed.


Oh, how everyone loved this game! And I did too! But I think what I loved most of all was the paper itself. Folded, manipulated, decorated. While everyone waited for their fortune to be told, I think I knew then that my fortune was actually in the paper itself. In the creating.


Yesterday, my publisher and I were making plans for new prints to be made on new paper. We were exchanging emails with different paper samples. And my heart ran with the wobbly legs of youth, chasing my fortune across the schoolyard playground.
Isn’t it wonderful to still be chasing! Trying new things. Learning new things. Being alive.


I hold the corners of the paper in my hand. We all do. And we choose. We choose hearts racing, and we live this glorious day!


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Nothing wasted.


“Inspire” is a tricky word. I think a lot of people want someone or something to inspire them. They want the “other” to do the work. But I’m not sure that can really ever happen. You have to want to be inspired. The receiver has to do the work. For example: living here in France, I can say that I receive a lot of inspiration from the Sainte Victoire mountain. Now, this giant rock isn’t really doing anything. It sits there. But if I watch it – watch it change colors in the different light, watch it turn black and gray under a cloud, turn so white that it’s almost lavender in the summer sun – if I do this, really see it then I am inspired. If I climb up its steep and rocky slope, breathe from my belly to my toes, rubber my legs, pump my arms, reach the summit, then really let it take my breath away – then I am inspired! If I paint it. Photograph it. Wave at it as we drive by – I receive all that it has to give. Inspiration is in the work of the receiver.


Cezanne painted the mountain countless times. He painted a simple apple again and again. He created his own inspiration. Some might look at my sketch book and ask, Why are you painting so many apples? Paint something different. But you see, I am. Every apple IS different. Every apple is unique in its shape and color. But you have to want to see it. And I do want to see it. I want to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. I want to find the inspiration in everything – every day. It is on me to find it. Feel it. Use it. Enjoy it.


Today’s yellow sun jumps from the sky into my hands and onto the page. Nothing wasted.


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If I had a hammer…

We visited the home of Thomas Jefferson. I took a picture of his work space on my ipad. I have the same hammer. I use the same hammer. In some ways we have come so far — I don’t know that he ever could have dreamed about an ipad, but he loved learning, progress, so I think he would approve. In other ways, the world hasn’t changed that much. The basics. The hammers. The tools of our daily living. I think the goal is to use what still works, but then keep learning. We have so many more tools at our disposal now. But are we doing better? I want to do better. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I always go back to one of my favorite people, Maya Angelou — she said, “When you know better, you do better.” We can do better. We can pick up the hammers that still work, and build with them, build on them. Use the tools we have today and go further.


It’s easy to type the words. Harder to live them. I know. Yesterday I got clogged in a mess for a couple of hours. I don’t want to give it more time, so I’ll just say, toner. Stupid toner. Stupid printer. My first thought was, “you’re wasting my time!” I said it over and over in my brain. Then it occured to me, that it was actually just me. I was wasting my time. I can do better. Today, I will do better. My hammer still works. My hands still work. My brain still works (well…as it does), and I will build a better today.


Thank you, Thomas. Thank you, Maya! Thank you, new day! Let’s begin!

Watch for this image. It’s going to be the cover of my newest book – a collection of these blogs!


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The fourth R.

In grade school, they called them the three Rs — reading, writing, and arithmetic. We had so much to learn, I guess we never questioned it. Years later, I was talking with a friend about it. He said, “You know, arithmetic doesn’t start with an R…” “Not to mention writing,” I replied. We laughed!

My husband and I love to visit antique stores. Traveling through the US, we get a feel for each part of the country as we thumb through the stories they leave behind. Stories that, if touched, or purchased, become part of ours. I love pins and patches. I fill my jackets. They become roadmaps of our travels. I picked up a high school letter. It was in great condition. The letter R. I held it up to Dominique. “Isn’t it great!” I said.
“What does the R stand for?” he asked. And without missing a beat, he answered his own question — Rtist. We laughed for about 20 minutes as I carried it through the store. Still laughing as I purchased it at the counter. (Still laughing as I type this.) My fourth R! Reading, writing, arithmetic, artist.

I fell in love with Dominique all over again! He knows me. I never question it.

This last trip to Alexandria, I found a plain gray sweatshirt. Yesterday, back in France, in the sewing room with the picture of my Grandma Elsie (a great seamstress), I sewed the R in place. Attached a couple of pins. Added the “tist” to my “R” – and claimed once again, that I am an artist. What a joy! What a relief — to be yourself! To live the vocabulary of your own heart – my wish for you – every day!


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Tuesdaying

Shakespeare has been credited for creating hundreds of words for his plays. I’d like a little of that Shakespeare invention now. I think we need a new word for dreams. You know, the supposed daytime ones – the kind they mean when they say, “Follow your dreams…” Well, the person who created that statement has never spent a night in my head. Yikes. Those are some dreams – terrible dreams. And I would really rather not associate anything I love, anything I want to create, that I want to follow, with such horrible moments. So I search for a new word.


Because maybe, (even for you lucky ones that don’t experience these horrible dreams) maybe, they aren’t really ever dreams at all, these “daytime, heart-filled, hopeful goals” that we want to achieve. “Dreams” sound somewhat unreachable, or not even real. But I say, these “daytime, heart-filled, hopeful goals that we want to achieve”, they certainly can be real — very real. But they take work. Aaaaah, work. People don’t really want to hear that — that’s so not “dreamy.” And it isn’t. It’s gritty, and exhausting (in the best possible way)!


When I awoke this morning, from an awful dream, tears running down my face, I was never so happy for some reality!! The reality of homemade bread and jam, and the smell of coffee that fills the kitchen. The reality of love beside me. The sun in the sky. The birds singing. And another glorious opportunity to create. Create what I love. Write down the words. Move the paint. Do the work! This is my glorious reality.
Reality isn’t boring. It’s beautiful – or it sure can be! You can create your own reality — far better than any dream! Be curious. Be inventive. Be open. Do the work! And you will make love that is real. Friendships that are real. Jobs and art and lives that are fantastically different, and curious and very, very real!


Shakespeare saw a need, and filled it. When there wasn’t the perfect word, he created it. Or he took an existing noun and made it a verb (this perhaps is the ultimate definition of doing the work — taking your noun of a life and turning it into a verb of living!)


Today, when you are Tuesdaying, maybe forget the dream, and awaken to all the possibilities around you, within you!