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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To build.

I like to watch decorating videos on youtube. I viewed a lovely tour of a woman’s home. The next day, in my feed, another video popped up. I recognized her home in the thumbnail. This, however, was not more about her home, but it was another woman watching the same video I watched and giving her opinion. I didn’t need to see much of it before quitting. By “critiquing”, she meant she was just going to say everything she didn’t like about this woman’s home. Why would I want to see that? But even worse, the next day, (and I’m not kidding), in my feed there was a video of a woman critiquing the woman as she critiqued the very first video.

I have always been one who believed in the builders, the makers — of anything. I like the process. The courage in the attempt. The guts to then show how and what you made. (I just had a very vivid flashback to junior and senior high math! I get it now. It IS about the work.) Anyone can get to the answer. Anyone can buy the completed product. Critique the completed product.

And perhaps I, we, are just using the wrong word here – critique. Because of course, there is always room for “a detailed analysis and assessment of something” (as the dictionary defines critique.) A qualified evaluation that will help us learn and grow. But this is not what these videos were. “I don’t like it” is not really all that helpful.

And it occurs to me, I might be doing the same thing here… ugh… so gathering in my own advice, I will continue to celebrate the makers, those who attempt! Bravo to those who try. I can see it as I type it — “bravo” and “brave” are really just one letter apart – one tiny line. So bravo to the brave who dare cross it! Today, even if it’s just the day itself, let’s make something great!


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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.


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A berry in the window.

I’m currently reading the book, “Sorrow and Bliss,” by Meg Mason. The main character is remembering a period of time when her mother, a sculptor, would get lost in her work and not want to be disturbed. (Her mother is quite the eccentric character and a delicious read.) During these periods she would put a note on her studio for her two daughters, “Girls, before knocking, ask yourself this, is anything actually on fire?”  I’m still laughing. 

I was still a teenager when my mother started dating. She met a man, we’ll call him Roger, (because that was his name). When she (they) wanted a little alone time, she hung a decorative berry in the window of our garden apartment on Jefferson Street to alert me. It was a small strawberry, made of plaster, with a tiny string. So unassuming. So telling. If, when returning home on my ten-speed bicycle, I saw the berry in the window, I knew to keep riding. And joyfully, I did. 

I knew my mother was human when I saw her cry. Sorrow. It was good to now see her humanness for (forgive me) berry different reasons. Bliss. I can’t see a strawberry now without smiling.

I put up my painted berry today, in hopes that she can feel that girlish heart. In hopes that she will know, I will do anything for her to feel that way again. So I keep riding, round and round the block.


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For a brief moment, I held the sun in my hands.

The bus dropped us off at Washington Elementary about 15 minutes before class started. I met with three of my friends. We all had glow-in-the-dark super balls, purchased from Ben Franklin. These balls, just about one inch in size, lived up to their name! The four of us snuck into the gymnasium, it was just across from our classroom. With no windows, and the doors shut, it was completely black. Nothing could be seen but the four super balls bouncing from wall to wall. It was a glorious light show of bouncing back! We chased the light for 15 shiny minutes. Our secret game. No rules. No losers. Only laughter. Only the belief that what we threw out there would come back to us.

I suppose I am not different from most people in the night time. That darkness can help my brain create the worst of scenarios. I really have to work at letting it all go. Releasing it all. Believing that the sun will return in all its magical light, giving us a brand new day, a brand new chance.

The sun is shining through the window now. And maybe this is a day for you to bounce back, or simply bounce – either way, I hope you live it with the eyes of belief, experience it with those dear friends around you, running in the laughter of all this light!


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Nothing else would I trade for this.

I heard a familiar voice in the dressing room next to me. I had met my mother at the Macy’s in St. Cloud to do a little shopping for the upcoming launch of my book, Friend. As I lived in Minneapolis, and she in Alexandria, it was half way for us both. I opened the door a crack to see who belonged to the voice. A short, blonde woman passed by – oh, Kari Ness – I had gone to high school with her. My mom popped in. I think I saw Kari Ness, I said. We both stepped out. No one was there. We continued through the racks of clothes. And there she was. She introduced us to her mother-in-law. And it began. I heard something about fashion, and she owned a store, San Francisco I think, it was all happening so quickly. What are you here for? she asked. Before I answered, “What are you shopping for? What do you need? A black and white event, I said. For my new book. She grabbed me by the hand. Took me to dresses. Put this on. I’m sure I said yes – who knew at this point? What’s happening? my mom asked. I didn’t know, but we were both smiling from ear to ear. And you’ll need shoes, she said, and started instructing the clerks in the shoe department. I don’t even remember trying on the dress, but I was wearing it. Three clerks were running to get shoes for me. Kari’s mother in law was directing the Macy’s orchestra and all we could do was dance along. It was glorious! Within minutes I had a fabulous dress, and hosiery and shoes and a handbag. There, she said. I’m not certain that I even spoke to Kari. I hope I thanked her. It was spectacular. For a few minutes in the St. Cloud Macy’s, I was a princess! I was a model! And it was a ride I will never forget.


My mom and I went to Ciatti’s restaurant afterward. Bags in tow. Ordered two glasses of wine, and relived it again and again with each sip.


Bobby Darin sang a song, “And the curtain falls.” It plays in my head as I remember these moments:


Your cheers and laughter
will linger after
They’ve torn down these dusty walls
If I had this to do again
And the evening were new again
I would spend it with you again
But now the curtain falls.
Your cheers and laughter
will linger after
They’ve torn down these dusty walls
People say I was made for this
Nothin’ else would I trade for this…


Life happens where and when you allow it. People and places will take you on unforgettable rides – I only encourage you to take them. Hop on! Your cheers and laughter will forever linger after. I hear them now!


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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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Dress Designer.

We were shopping the City Center Mall in Downtown Minneapolis, my mom and I. The shops were magnificent. Such beautiful things. Could we afford them? No, of course not, but the real question was, could we afford not to look? We were dreamers. We had to see.

We dressed up to go shopping. (I suppose like one used to dress up to be on a plane.) We stopped at the Lillie Rubin store window. Such elegance. We began to enter the store when the longest legged clerk I had ever seen asked if we had an appointment. An appointment? “You need an appointment to enter,” she said, as if words could be an eye roll. My mom, without missing a beat replied, “Are the clothes busy?” I laughed out loud. Long legs turned and walked away. We laughed all the way to Dayton’s.

We had already survived much bigger rejections than a Saturday afternoon store clerk. This would never stop us. Life gives you the opportunity to decide. People can’t hurt you unless you give them the power. City Center is long gone. But we’re still here. Still shopping. Still dreaming. Still looking. Still laughing. Through everything, still deciding to make it a good day.

My mother was a dress designer. Not for Lillie Rubin, but for us. I give thanks for that, every day.


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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!!!