Jodi Hills

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


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Sprigs of green.

I received this tiny flower for May Day and I put it in the bathroom. It’s only been 48 hours, but I don’t know how I will ever live without it. I thought I loved this shelf before, but now… I will forever want something green. Something growing. Something alive. 

They say that about love. “When you know, you know…” But the problem with that is, you only know what you are taught. And until someone loves you, shows you what real love is, how can you possibly know? And I’m not just talking about romantic love — I mean all of it – the “thy neighbor”, fellow man, global, empathetic, understanding, forgiving, curious, ever kind, evergreen sort of love. Because that’s what love is. Love doesn’t make mistakes. Humans do. And we fail all the time. I fail all the time. But I have been blessed to see what real love is, maybe only glimpses, and maybe that’s all the human eye and heart can handle of this beauty, but what I’ve seen makes me want to try. Makes me want to do better. Like Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” Oh! To be better!  

Today I give thanks for all those who have shown me, taught me about real love — all those sprigs of green that have lit up my heart. I wish it for everyone — a love forever growing, forever green.


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A pretty big deal.

We have a dessert here called Café gourmand. It varies from restaurant to restaurant, but usually consists of an espresso and a small selection of tiny little delicacies. Perhaps a Crème brûlée, fondant au chocolat, tart, or a biscuit. It is so satisfying, so delicious, so delightful, proving once again, it takes so little.

I had just gotten my first job. For Christmas each employee got a box of fancy chocolates and nuts. I didn’t have the money to indulge in something like that. Nor did I have the money to give such fancy gifts. I enjoyed the beautiful packaging for just a moment, then sent it off to my grandmother for her Christmas gift. She sent a note back in the mail. I knew it was from her immediately, without looking at the return address. I recognized her handwriting. (Proof of something so much bigger.) She thanked me for the gift, and said, “I will only share these with a select group of people. And when you come to visit, I will share them with you, and then you will know how special you are.”


I had spent nothing, and got everything in return. Let’s do the small things for each other — offering petite tastes of kindness, joy and love. So filling. So delicious. So delightful!


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Creating a song.

My mom and I drove to Galveston for the sole reason of the Glen Campbell song of the same name. It wouldn’t be the last time I was lured by the romance of a song.

Yesterday, my husband and I drove to Lake Charles, LA. We can thank Lucinda Williams for that. I (we) have been singing her song “Lake Charles” since we entered the South. The glorious power of seeing things through someone else’s eyes.

Maybe that’s the best thing about all of the arts — seeing things as others see them. In the city where we live in France, Aix en Provence, the Sainte Victoire mountain is the star. Cezanne painted it again and again. I have often wondered if it would have had the same appeal if he hadn’t shown us the beauty that he saw. I’m not sure, because now I can’t unsee it. And it is beautiful.

I write of the simple things. Paint them as well. Some might even say ordinary. I tell you of my home town. My mother. My grandparents. My school. For me, none of it is ordinary. And maybe you see it. See them. And maybe it helps you see the extraordinary beauty of your own life. And with any luck, that beauty gets stuck in your head, like a favorite song.


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Holding on.

Sunday afternoons were always the longest. Especially in winter. When it got dark so early. I read. There was that. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her Sunday afternoons, I imagined were full. With Ma and Pa, and Mary, and that little one that nobody really liked. I laid on the floor and walked to their “Little House in the Big Woods” — before they moved to the Prairie. Everyone remembers the Prairie – maybe because of the television show, but for me it was that book – Little House in the Big Woods – because it was the first book in that series that I owned. That I could hold and smell and turn the pages. That I could read and read again on dark, Sunday afternoons.


My mom often laid beside me. Both of us near a speaker of our giant console. Only a few records, she played over and over. Barry Manilow. Frank Sinatra. Worn from the play on those dark days.
She always told me, “One day, the days are going to go so fast. Filled with so much joy, we’ll barely be able to hold on.”


She was more than right. Nothing is lighter than joy, and oh, how it can fly. Sometimes, I try to catch it all in the blur that passes, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, art, love, travel, France, glasses — clinking, laughter, food passed around tables, and words shared in whispers and dog-eared books. And it is fast — this traveling at the speed of joy. Sometimes I wonder, how will I hold on, and then I see, my hands knowing, folded together in thanks, holding. On.


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Today’s pear.

I woke up to my first sale of 2022. It’s always a good feeling. Of course I like the money, but it is way beyond that. Always has been.

I have painted since I was five years old. I wrote stories. Drew pictures. For myself. For my mom. It wasn’t just something I did, it was me – it is me – who I am. I remember some of my first sales of paintings. I would get so excited. Start talking. Telling the story of the origin. Hands waving. So in the moment, I wouldn’t even see the check written and slid across the table. My mom was with me at this particular sale. As she was so often. I was in full excitement mode. Hugging the buyer as we said goodbye. Hugging my mom. She looked at me with her mothering eyes and said, “Take the money, Pea Brain!” She had a way of snapping me back to reality. We laughed! I picked the check off the table.

It’s still exciting to make a sale. It’s still exciting to connect with people. Read your comments when I post each day. It’s still exciting to have a mother that knows me so well. It’s exciting to make a living — to make a life!!! Every day!

Today I will pack up this pear and send it from Aix en Provence to Pennsylvania. And with it will go a piece of my heart, a bit of my story, and the sweet laughter of gratitude.


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The journey.

It happens with a really good book. I have this urgency to keep reading and this need for it to never end. This push and pull inside my brain and heart – keep reading one tells the other, no, wait, slow down. It’s happening right now with the book, “Our Country Friends.” I read last night until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, then woke up early to continue. My eyes still scratchy with sleep I plowed through each word. Slow down my heart urged, but my brain’s hand kept pointing forward.


We were driving to Chicago, my mom and I. It was winter and the trip was always a gamble, but one we were so willing to take. If we could make it beyond Tomah, Wisconsin, without a snowstorm, we were safe. As we neared this critical halfway point, the snow began. Then harder. We kept singing to the radio as the view got whiter and whiter. “Do you think we’ll be smart enough to pull over if it gets too bad?” my mother asked. Before I, or she, could respond, the barrier across the freeway had been lowered and we were forced to pull off the exit. “I guess not…” we said together.


I don’t remember what we bought on that trip to Chicago – that shopping excursion – but I do remember the journey. The journey together. I suppose that’s everything, isn’t it? I closed my book and went down to make breakfast. I wanted it to last a little longer. I want it all to last a little longer.


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Become.

She sits in front of my easel, my brushes, this portrait I painted of Beverly Cleary. She made a path for me to travel when I was just a child with her books, Ramona the Pest, Henry and the Paper Route, Henry and Ribsy… and on and up the open road of imagination. What a gift she gave. How could I not bring her on my continuing journey?!

And it is so light, this joy — so easy to carry. No need for baggage.

Joy is different from memory. Memories can fade in and out. Change. Be forgotten. Some can even weigh us down. But that joy — oh, that joy, those feelings that permanently uplift, light the way… these are the things we must focus on – place front and center. So when faced with our challenges, our work, our daily life, the first thing we see is that upturned brow of curiosity that says, “I am interested,” — that gentle smile that says, “I know you can do this!”, that face that says, “I’ll be with you along the way.”

It is a blessing to find that joy — perhaps even more, to one day become that joy. I raise my brow, my lips, my brushes, my pen…and give thanks for the well-lit path before me.


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Big deal.

Yesterday morning I was romanticizing the beauty of hotel bedrooms. I’m not sure why. The person who does the filing in my brain must have pulled out that particular file and the images were so inviting, I sprung into action. I pulled the sheets off of our bed, the pillowcases and duvet cover, putting them in the laundry. Found a new set of sheets, and stretched them over the bed. They were ironed, (yes, I do iron our bedding) but still needed the smoothing of my hand, if only for the welcoming. I dressed the pillows. Filled the duvet cover. Found a new throw blanket to style. Even though the cover was ironed, it’s time in the cupboard was apparently not that easy, so I got the iron and steamed it back to its origin. So clean and fresh, I lit the candles on the bedside tables in celebration. The sun shone directly on this hoteled bed and for one brief moment, I thought, yes! But the sun said, wait… look at the windows. Oh, that sun can see everything. This beautiful bed deserved clean windows, so I got the Windex and paper towel and squeegee and went to work. Round and round each pane. The inside and outside. Of course, in doing this, yesterday’s vacuumed floor was not spackled with dust, so I got out the new vacuum and followed it’s headlight until the floor was once again clean.


Today, it will show a bit of rumpling, and I will fight the good fight with smoothing hands. But tomorrow it will show a little more, and a little more the day after that. And that’s ok. Because yesterday, for a brief moment it was perfect, when my husband eased himself under the covers and said, “It feels like a brand new bed!”


We think life is made up of a few grandiose events, but really, it’s a million little moments. The everyday things. The clean sheets. The croissants for breakfast. The hopes that shine through the windows with each morning sun. These are the moments! I want to respect them, work for them, enjoy them, live them!


Here comes another! Don’t miss it! Each little thing is a pretty big deal!


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Stringing joy.

My office smells like the cinema this morning. I began stringing popcorn for the Christmas tree we have yet to purchase. I usually don’t start decorating until the day after Thanksgiving, but technically, I thought, this wasn’t really decorating, it was just pre-decorating. Truth be told, I also started hot gluing the strings on the pine cones from our yard. Still, only the “pre” stage.


I love Christmas! I mean, I really love it! And I want to be patient. And stringing popcorn, what an exercise in patience! I have a memory of popcorn being one big chunk of white fluff at the top that you could easily slide the needle through — but not our popcorn. Our popcorn pops with a flurry, in some sort of neurotic burst that makes the accessible part – almost inaccessible. But I love the look. The smell. The challenge of it all. So I strung, bit by bit, through the tears of watching Love Actually for the 15th time.


I will never apologize for feeling. I want to feel everything! And when there is joy – I will do my best to elongate it! Stretch it out, string it along, kernel by neurotic kernel. You don’t need my permission, but I will offer it anyway, wrap it in colorful, scent-filled words, telling you to do it – find what you love and do it! This day and every day – ’tis the season.


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Good morning, Fern!

We got a new plant for our library. She is a fern. I named her Fern. (Everything doesn’t have to be hard to be delightful.) She sits beside the antique typewriter we got from Dominique’s mom. So in my head, Fern works in this office from the 1950’s. Every morning, when I open the shutters, let the sun in, I say in my most boisterous, yet cheerful, of voices — “Good morning, Fern! Take a letter.” I hope you’re laughing. It makes me laugh every day. I’m smiling as I type this.

It really takes so little. Today, (well, and every day) find something that tickles your heart from the inside. I’m old enough to know about the Reader’s Digest magazine. They had a section in there called “Laughter is the best medicine.” I was probably six when I started reading them. I didn’t always understand, but I knew I liked to laugh, so I hopscotched through the words and found myself laughing just the same. I guess I had already started making a choice to find the good. And it is a choice.

So fling those curtains, those shutters, those hearts wide open. Greet the day. And find the good — it’s out there! Good morning, Fern!!!