Jodi Hills

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


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At the core.

We arrived in this small city. At the visitor’s center, the attendant seemed shocked, not only that we entered, but that anyone did. It soon became clear that we were perhaps her first “customers.” She had long forgotten the facts they must have presented her with upon her hiring. She smiled, and struggled for something to say. When we asked about her city, she began each answer like an unprepared geography student when the teacher gave a pop quiz. “Where are the columns from?” I asked. “I wanna say…” and she paused, clearly searching her brain for something.

Loaded with two maps and no information, we wandered the city. It was functional. One might say even nice, but nothing stood out. Or nothing we could find. The afternoon was underwhelming and left us a bit weary. With one last attempt to save the visit, we walked the streets to find a restaurant. First restaurant, no parking. Second restaurant, no one inside – never a good sign. Third restaurant, ok,let’s give it a try. We ordered, and within a few minutes, a young couple sat down at the bar beside us. He asked politely if they could sit near us. And then thanked us. We already felt better. Polite. Young. Smiling. Maybe this was the city. We began to visit. Was that a custom beer they were drinking? Did they live here? And so it began. Jobs. Life. Travel. Art. Laughter. And here it was. Right next to us. The heart of the city. And the day was not only saved, but enjoyed, greatly.

It’s easy to find the obvious. The Eiffel Tower. The Empire State Building. Sometimes you have to look a little deeper. Go a little deeper. Attractions are everywhere. They don’t all have a brochure, but they can magical just the same. Worth the visit!


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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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Go higher.

We almost past by this store yesterday, until we saw the sign, “This store voted number one in Midway, by owner.” We turned around and went inside. A store with a little pride and a big sense of humor, we couldn’t miss that! It was a delightful store. And we almost missed it. The people inside were welcoming. Funny. And they had great merchandise. And we saw it all because they presented themselves in the best manner. Maybe we could all do that.

Even at our most poor, my mother always looked like a star. She dressed well. Put on her make-up. Put on a smile, sometimes gutted there by pure will, but it was always there. She looked great! Still does. Because she cared. We were at the downtown Minneapolis Dayton’s store. It had many levels. The levels got more expensive with each escalator ride. She didn’t even look at the first level. At the second, she glanced around and said, “Ewwww, this looks like stuff we could afford…”. We laughed and went higher.

Through the years she found the sales. Put things on lay-a-way. Saved. Wished. Styled. And always looked wonderful. She taught me that. What a gift. It’s never about money. It’s about style. And if that style can include a little pride, self-esteem, and a great sense of humor, that will take you pretty far, and you’ll look good along the way.

She will always be voted #1 mother, (by her daughter.)


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Whole wheat bread.



Yesterday I made whole grain wheat bread for the first time. I had never made bread of any kind before arriving in France. A good first. Then I starting making the jam for the bread. Another first. We love the bread, but Dominque convinced me that we should try some whole grain. It was absolutely delicious! We both loved it!

It’s easy to let a day go by, days go by, and before you know it – you’ve lived a lifetime of sameness, or passed through a lifetime, but I’m not sure you’ve really lived. I don’t want that to be me. I want to taste something new from the palm of my hand. Feel something new from the palm of my heart.

I’m writing to you today from the airport in Amsterdam. My first blog from here. I’m sitting next to the first (and only) Frenchman I ever loved. The bread, the blogs, the travel, none of this would have happened if I hadn’t taken a leap of love and tried something new. Perhaps it takes a lot of firsts to find the things that last. And that my friends, tastes like a life!


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The sweet spot.

I have always been drawn to the still life. And not just in painting. The living as well. That doesn’t mean not doing anything. Quite the opposite. I like doing something all the time. My morning schedule is filled with breakfast, Duolingo, blogging, yoga and swimming. Which connects me to an afternoon of painting, discovering, filling, learning. But nothing is done in a frenzy, or a fever. All work to keep my spinning brain and feeling heart at a manageable pace. If my home is in chaos, it rattles my soul, so I work very hard to keep it calm. Things in place, keep my focus in place. My focus in place, I can find the most real part of me. And this is the sweet spot I suppose. The spot that I want to share. That’s the spot where I want to find people. This, I think is where we can make the true connections. It’s hard to connect to a spinning top.

Somewhere along the way, busy became a symbol of status. I’m not even really sure what the word means. We all have things to do. We all live under the same time, the same sun and moon. It seems like busy means “I’m so important,” or “what I’m doing is my important than you,” or “I have worth.” But how can we see the value in each other if we race around in circles? I want to see your worth, but I’m going to need you to slow down and actually show me who you are. Slow down and let me show you who I am. And here, we won’t be busy, but oh, it will true, still, and forever sweet!


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Taste this life!

I have eaten a lot of jelly in my life. At hotels. Restaurants. Even my own house. But eating jelly that I have made, from fruit that I have picked, from a tree in our garden, and put on bread (that I have also made) – well, now this is new. New and exciting! I can honestly say that I think about it before I go to sleep, as if it were Christmas Eve!


Maybe it’s the taste. The freshness. The effort made. The sharing with someone you love. Or maybe it’s figuring out that this is probably “IT” – finding the joy in the small things. Celebrating the little things. Figuring out that there are 364 other “eves” to Christmas – that can all be just as exciting!!


I love that the cover of the jar matches the jelly that colors the toast that brightens the breakfast that fills my soul and begins my day! That’s a good morning! Perhaps even a holiday! The little things — they that make living such a big deal!!!!!!!


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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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Kick. And push. And soar!

There was such freedom in it. Learning to swing. The first few years, having to ask, can you push me? Again? Knowing if they left, it would be all over. It was so limiting. So discouraging. Just you, hanging there. But then one day it happens. Fed up with the waiting. The depending. You push off from the ground. Reach your legs forward a little. Then ride it back. Curling your legs in. A little further this time. Pointing your toes. Back again. Further. Hugging in your knees. Then releasing. Pointing those toes to the sky. Hair blowing. Heart racing. Legs pumping. You are doing it on your own. How glorious! You’re swinging! All on your own!

I guess that’s what happiness is. You can wait around for someone else to make you happy, or you can figure it out on your own. You can create your own joy. You can pump and reach and fling yourself into the beauty all around you! Then you have something to share.

And, if you’re lucky, someone might come along and sit beside you. Fly along beside you. And you can turn to them and smile – a smile that says – hey, this is really some ride!

My legs are pumping. The day begins. I’ll see you up there!


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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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Tiny portions.

I guess the question is, and always has been, “Can we do the small things?”

It’s like the old joke —

The food here isn’t any good.
Then why do you keep coming back?
Well, the portions!!!!!!

Large paintings have the advantage of being seen. They definitely make a grand statement just by their presence alone. And most people assume, well, it’s big, it must be good. Or it’s big, so it must be more expensive. And both of these statements can, of course, be true. I love a big painting. To take someone’s breath away when they walk into a room, well, that feels wonderful! But big doesn’t mean more important. More value. It doesn’t mean that it took more skill. To paint something small, and still make it significant, this takes a special skill. To convey sentiment, with the smallest stroke, this takes attention to detail. You really have to love doing it, to put in the same effort for a small result.

Yesterday, I stretched a small canvas. I may never put it up for sale. I may never even put it in a show. I did it because I love doing it. It feels good. And it may sound crazy, but I think even the smallest canvas deserves my attention. Deserves to be noticed. Taken care of. So I do.

I suppose it is the same with us humans. We all want to make the grand gesture. Be seen for the grandiose good deed. But when you think about it, the big things usually have a way of working out. We can rely on the firefighters to put out the big fires. The doctors to prescribe the medicine. But who is going to take care of the little things? Be there to hold a hand? Have a conversation? Share a laugh? It’s not that hard to remember a birthday. Buy a big gift. But are we there on Tuesdays? Or lonesome Sunday afternoons? Some might say, “Well, you know I’d be there for you if you really needed it?” But don’t we? Really need it? Every day? I know I do. I really do. I hope I’m giving them as well, the little things. Hugs and laughter. Time spent. Meals shared. Smiles. I want to share in all of these things. Because, Oh! how filling, these tiny portions.