Jodi Hills

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


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Never underestimate the power of a compliment.

They gave us free margaritas at the hotel last night. Why do free things taste so good? We could afford to buy a drink anywhere, but that’s not the same. This was given to us. No expectations. We didn’t have to drive. We didn’t have to do anything but enjoy it. Delicious.

Free. Nothing tastes better. Nothing feels better. A gift with no expectations. We stopped at Walmart to get water for the road. I had put on a dress to make the long freeway of the day a little more bearable. The Walmart greeter said, “Oh, you look so cute today!” It felt great! I felt great. And it was all free. Free for her to give. Free for me to enjoy!

You know we can do this for each other. All the time. It really is so easy. Let me be the first (and hopefully not the last) to tell you how important you are to me, and this world. Let me tell you how beautiful you are – inside and out! Let me tell you – thanks for being my friend!!!! Make today delicious, for yourself, and all those around you.


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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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What if!

The Edina Art Fair was my first art show. I didn’t even sign up for it. A friend of mine filled out the forms. Applied. And I got in. She didn’t tell me until I had a booth assignment. There was no backing out. Sometimes decisions get made for you. And thank goodness for that!

My booth was very rudimentary. I had no idea what I was doing. But my mother stood bravely beside me, and we laughed from the inside of our hearts and exchanged the art for their money. I sold out the first day. I spent that whole night creating and creating. Fueled with a new confidence and joy. The next day. Sold out again. This was actually happening.

It probably took her 10 minutes to fill out the form. She maybe doesn’t even remember doing it. But I will never forget. It changed my life. It changed my mom’s life. What an impact!

Through the years, when I’ve relayed this story, some people have said – oh, that was way too risky. What if you wouldn’t have sold anything. She would have made things miserable for you. No, I say. Because just the fact that she believed in me enough to fill out the forms, that told me something, gave me something. That alone would have changed my life.

And we need to stop with all the “what if it doesn’t happen?”… and believe in the “what if it does!” Believe in each other. Stand up for each other with wildly high hopes. Stand beside each other with wildly full hearts! And believe that the best could happen! And what if it does!!!!!


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Because you would be the only one who understands.


My mother used to keep a list, a laminated list, of all my surgeries. I had had over 20, so to remember the dates and places, was just too much. There was no MyChart, or other computer app at that time. We didn’t have cell phones, or ipads, so she typed (on a typewriter) each procedure, laminated it, and kept it in her wallet. And each time I went to a new hospital, of course they would ask about my history, and she would whip it out, no explanation required.


What a gift to have someone who knows you. Knows your history. Because she did that, you see, with all my emotions. Whenever something came up in my life, I didn’t have to relive the past. Didn’t have to justify my feelings. Never had to explain why this event would trigger something in me. She knew. She knows me. She always knows me. The events of my life are laminated in her heart. And hers in mine. Forever safe. Forever understood.


I hope you have that with someone. I hope someone has that with you. What a gift to be understood. What a gift to understand!


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U-turn.

She had to make a U-turn in traffic to capture a photo of this Vespa. While driving on this busy road, with as many thoughts as one woman normally carries in her head about the what ifs and the what to dos — this sky blue Vespa caught her eye and she thought about me. Me! She thought about me and turned the car around. Thought about the Vespas I had painted. Stopped her day and captured a picture. Sent it to me in another country, all because she thought about me.


I have a million images to paint. The ones dancing around my head. The ones people want to commission. But yesterday I stopped. I stopped to make a small painting of that blue Vespa. Because I thought about her. I thought about how good it felt to have someone across the globe take a minute of their day to say “I thought about you, and it’s important enough to take action.” That’s something!


They say it’s the thought that counts. Not really. If someone is thinking about you, but never tells you, never shows you — who cares? What good is that? Thoughts need to be expressed. (well, at least the good ones – some thoughts can certainly be kept to yourself :))


Maybe today is the day you show someone that you care. Make a simple U-turn and give them a smile. It matters. It is time worthy. Paint worthy. Word worthy. Heart worthy! Take the time.


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Let it be me.

Yesterday, on the way to the mountains, I was sure that I would see beauty. Of course the countryside, the eight colors of green, the old farm houses, the flowers. I knew it would be beautiful. And it was. Hay wrapped in golden bales, against the green – what a color palette! The smell of lavender in the air. It was expected and it didn’t disappoint.

But there was a moment. A gift really. Nature at its finest. Moving rapidly in the car – wait, goats! My husband slowed down. Backed up. The herd rested gently in the shade. Unafraid. They were unafraid I suppose because of what happened next. A large dog, came barreling toward the fence, near our car. I had only rolled down the window to take a picture, but this dog was having none of it. His bark was not just lip service. He wanted us gone. And right now. We eased the car up the road a little bit and this dog continued. Nothing was going to harm his goats. Our car was bigger, faster…didn’t matter. He could withstand – stand up for – anything! How could we not respect that? We took off down the road, rather quickly and that dog ran alongside as fast and as far as the road allowed. It was beautiful. He had a job to do and he did it. But not just that – he did it with all of his heart and capabilities.

Was that love? Empathy? Loyalty? Courage? What did we just see? I know it may sound ordinary, but trust me, it was something! To stand up for someone who doesn’t look like you, talk like you, live like you. That is something! Are we doing that? Are we? I hope so. For those who can’t fight. Who can’t stand. Are we protecting them? Are we giving them a voice? Oh, I hope we are. I want to.

It’s so easy to say “somebody” should do it. Who is this somebody? Let it be me. I do not have the bark, nor certainly the bite, but I have a voice. I have the words and the paint, and the willingness to tell my story, your story, our stories.

One of my greatest joys is when you see yourself in the words and paintings, maybe for the first time, maybe for the only time, but not for the last time. I love it when I hear, “Oh, that is so me!” “Oh, that’s my story!” “Are you sure you aren’t writing about me?” This, I love. This is me, humbly, running down the side of the road, as fast as I possibly can, so you can be seen, protected, valued.

I have certainly at times been the goat. And I’m so thankful for those who would stop at nothing to protect me. What a gift! I saw them today, at the side of the road. My grandfather. My mother. A few dear friends. My husband. What a beautiful gift! I will carry it with me, and try to do the same, as far as the road, this life, will allow!


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A nice thought.

We arrived at the Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe a little later than expected. It was only going to be open for about an hour longer. We went to the cashier to buy our tickets. She greeted us nicely, but we could tell she was a bit distracted. Her computer was giving her problems. We’ve all been there and know how distracting that can be. “Two?” she asked, and kept willing the machine to work. “Yes,” we smiled. I could see the beautiful works out of the corner of my eye. I was so excited to go inside. I had read books on Georgia. Read her letters. Studied her paintings. Visited her home. Even painted her. My smile must have been huge – as I’m smiling while I write this. “Go ahead and go in,” she said. Not out of frustration any longer, just kindness. “Oh, wow – that’s great! Thank you!” It made the whole experience even better than I could have imagined. Kindness will always do that I suppose. In the best of situations. In the worst.

Georgia wrote in a correspondence to a close friend, “You are one of my nicest thoughts.” I think about the museum — the woman who let us in for free, even though she was clearly having a hard time. She created an image as lovely as the paintings inside. We are all creating images, all the time. With our actions, our interactions. Our faces. Our hearts. I think the best we can do is to try and make them beautiful.

We may not always succeed, but there is beauty in the attempt, and anyway, it’s a nice thought.