Jodi Hills

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


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From my tiny cup.

When I was a child, I thought coffee was chunky. I remember my Grandma’s cup, when she reached the bottom, it was filled with the crumbs of every grandchild that pleaded, please can I just dunk my cookie, just once. And my mother’s cup, thanks to me, was the same. I know she didn’t like it, but for some strange and glorious reason, she loved me more.

I’ll say it again. It’s the little things, one might even say the crumbs, but oh they matter! Always have, always will.

People often tell me that they read my posts with their morning coffee. What a gift! To share with you this time. To gather in. Sit beside you at your table.

Every day, the world throws something at us. We are asked to survive the unsurvivable. Believe in the unbelievable. It is in these moments that I remember, I was not only loved, I was loved more. Taking a sip from my cup, I have everything, and so I begin.


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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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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!!!


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Delightful.

I picked up an old sketchbook this morning. One I was making a few years ago while traveling in the southern part of the US. We stopped in a store in Mississippi. It was filled with home goods. I was admiring some material between thumb and index finger. The clerk, with great pleasure, not knowing me, nor where I lived, said, “These tablecloths are so French, you can’t even find them in France!” Even as I type this, I’m not really sure what that means, but she said it with such pride, such exuberance, how could I not be delighted as well! Delighted enough to write it in my journal on a January 27th.


Sometimes I think we use the excuses of time, money, location, situation — excuses not to find the joy, the beauty, the magic of the moment. I have been guilty of this for sure. But years ago, I made it my intent to see things. Everything. Everywhere. Anytime. In people. Places. Things. And this intent became habit, and became a life.


I had terrible dreams last night. The kind that want to rattle you through breakfast. But I entered my French kitchen. Heated the croissants. Drank the coffee. Mixed up the bread dough. I love making bread. I love that soon the scent will waft through the halls. Soon we will eat the most delicious bread! Bread so good, so French, it takes an American girl in provence to make it! It doesn’t have to make sense — it’s just delightful!


Let go of the night — any darkness that surrounds you. Enjoy your day!!!


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There, there.

It’s easy to get too far ahead of myself. In painting. In life. I want the answer. The finished piece. The resolution. The “Veruca Salt” voice sings in my head, “I want it now!” But it doesn’t work that way. Painting. Life. Stroke by stroke. Patience.


I’ve started a commissioned painting for a lake. Blue. Well, that’s simple. Right? Done? No. Each color must be given it’s equal time. The shadows of the almost blue black, to the glistening whites of the sun’s reflection. Each needs attention. Time. To find the movement in the stillness of each color. This is the goal.


Vincent van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” I understand this – on canvas. I take the time in my sketchbook. Work at it. Color by color. Stroke by stroke. Oh, yes. Bit by bit, it all comes together. Slowly in the stillness of my sketchbook. I want this for life.


It was Mrs. Bergstrum who first taught us this. “Sound it out,” she said. But there was the whole alphabet right in front of us! All the possibilities. We wanted it all. Every word. Every book. Every library. “Slowly,” she said. And we made the sounds. Letter by letter. Into words. Each word a victory. Great things were coming together.


There is so much to want. So much I want for those I love. I want healing and grace and hope and joy. I want it all! I know this furious speed. I know the furious speed at which you are trying to get over and around. Wanting every color, every word, now! I have traveled that wind and hung on for dear life. But the dear life I found came only in the quiet slowing down. The letting go. No longer rushing to get past, but easing my way through. Color by color. Letter by letter. Sounding it out. And the peace. Smiled. Knowing it had always been there, as I whirled. Peace, sitting quietly next to joy, and hope, and OK now. There, there. Still. Great things are coming together.


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Maybe we were all looking to be saved.

I was waiting for my mom to come out of the doctor’s room. I couldn’t go in with her. Covid. Most of the chairs were filled in oncology. The weight of that…things didn’t stop just because of Covid. People still got cancer. It filled the room. I sat on a small chair with a desk, just outside the door. The chair was formerly filled with a greeter I suppose, or support person — no longer able to be present. I opened the drawer. There was a pad and few crayons. I wrote a note and left it on top of the desk – “If you see this, I’m wishing you a good day.”


We had to go back to oncology the next morning. As we walked out the door, the woman working the front desk called out my name — “Thanks for writing that note!” she said. It travelled through the weight of the room and fit directly into my heart. She knew me. She saw me. And I was saved.


My grandfather told me years ago, if you want to feel better, focus on someone else. I often forget. And then he angel pokes my self-focusing heart, lifts my hand, and I try to do better. Always try to do better. And so I’m sending out the words again today, to cut through whatever weight is clouding your room, “If you see this, I’m wishing you a good day!” A good day that will save us all.


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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!