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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She’s here!

I was at the New York library last night (in my dream). It is so rare that I have a good dream, I must tell you about it. To put it in perspective, if I don’t wake up screaming, it’s a good night. And those bad dreams, they can linger, not just through the morning, but for days. So this dream — this rare and glorious good dream — I put it to words, with hopes that it will linger.

I could smell the wood. And the paper. For me, libraries have always carried the scent of permanence and possibility. In the library was the perfect place for this dream to occur, amid the realm of all things possible. Dominique and I were donating our old books to the librarian. She was kind and grateful and wanted to visit. I told her of my love for books, and that, humbly, I too, was an author. She smiled and said she knew, and pulled out my most recent book, Pulling Nails. I beamed. She asked if I would mind signing a copy for the library. Of course! And maybe one for a fan, she asked. A fan? And then she stepped into the room — this beautiful woman — my grandma! My Grandma Elsie. And she was holding my book. (Tears of tenderness roll down my face as I type.) I was so happy to see her! Dominique look! It’s my Grandma! She held out my book and said, It’s gorgeous! (It’s gorgeous — you have no idea what those words will forever do to my heart!) And in my dream, I knew it was a dream, and I said out loud, …But she’s here! And she was. I can still feel her smiling.

I don’t know what dreams really are. I’m not sure that anyone does. The so-called experts say it means “this”, or “that”, but perhaps they are only as accurate as our local weather reporters making educated guesses. All I know for sure is that this morning the sun is shining and my heart is full — and it is as real as anything could be. I choose to call that love. Love that fills the air with the scent of permanence and possibility — and it IS gorgeous!

Good morning!


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Lifted.

All of the trees in my grandparents’ yard were climbable, I suppose, but especially one. It was one of the biggest. It faced the road. Someone, I don’t know who, had pounded in strips of wood. If you could get one foot on the lowest piece, and reach your hand up to another, and pull, with all of your might, then up you would go.

There were 27 of us grandchildren. That tree had been marked and carved by every kind of shoe. And it stood strong. As strong, I imagine, as our need to get higher, to see more. get above and beyond.

And we did. We climbed. Higher and higher. And then, each of us, on different days, different years, we got high enough, and brave enough, and off we flew. With all of our wildly different high hopes.

I have flown far and wide, with the memory of trees — the strength of those who gave me a start, a rung to climb. And I give thanks. For I have been lifted, daily, knowing, we never really fly alone.


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Rabbits and bells.

I still get excited. And why not!? Everything is in bloom. There is candy on the table and kindness in the air. Eggs of many colors. Family soon to arrive. Everything feels like hope.

My first Easter in France was so different from that of my childhood. There is no Easter bunny here. They have bells. Bells deliver the candy and hide it. Not in baskets, but behind trees and throughout the garden. Bells, I thought, how ridiculous – everyone knows a rabbit… I know. I heard it too. And so I joyously rang the bell, and let myself believe. It made no difference how the magic arrived. It was there, filling the trees. 

My mother used to change the words to Peter Cottontail. As she skipped through the house with a basket of candy she sang, “Here comes Peter Cotton-fuzz, best little bunny that ever was…”  Different words. Still magic!!!

There is room in the sky for all of it. All of us. Whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, or Ramadan, or just the bloom of spring. I think we all want to believe in the best of us. The renewal of goodness. The spirit of kindness. The lightness of hope. Let the message be delivered in every way possible – even on wings!


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365 better days.

Practice makes perfect. I guess we heard that in school – though we rarely saw evidence of it. I practiced my clarinet. I missed notes. Often. So did Brenda, beside me. Even Jan, who sat first chair. But oh, how we played! And when our parents stood for us at the end of the spring concert, it was, as they say, perfection.

I went to volleyball practice, daily during the season. We never won a championship. But win or lose, legs stuck to the fake green leather seats of the bus, we sang, “We are the champions!”

I paint in my sketch book every day. I practice. Try new techniques. It doesn’t make me a perfect painter. (I’m not even sure what that would mean.) But it does make me perfectly happy. I feel like I make progress. I feel like I get better. And maybe that’s what the saying should have been all along. Practice makes better.

I have not missed a day writing this blog, not for 365 days. One solid year. That’s a practice. In the play “Rent,” there is a song, “Seasons of love.” In it they sing, “Five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes.
How do you measure, measure a year?” I have measured mine in paint strokes, and softball fields, summer vacations and childhood friends. Measured in tears and coffee cups, and hammers and nails, and libraries. In planes and croissants, and hugs, and laughter. Measured in each word I send out to you. Measured in each word you send back to me – and I am better because of it.

The sun is up. I’ve had my croissant with the one I love. Good morning, my beautifully imperfect world! Let’s get to practicing!


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Still, and again.

I thought the bottle was magic. It worked every time. If I was scared, carrying the random worry from the darkness that any night can bring, my mother would put me in my pajamas, brush my hair, then wash it with Johnson’s Baby shampoo. No more tears it said, right on the label.  And it was right. Hair dry, tucked safely into bed, I was no longer afraid, or scared, or worried. I was saved. No more tears. Pure magic. 

Years later, I realized it wasn’t the shampoo, but my mother. It wasn’t magic, but love. (But maybe that’s what love is – pure magic – that will always save us.)

In the shower today, I was feeling a bit anxious about the world. Covid. War. So much to be worried about. I washed my hair. Dried it. Went to my studio, walking past the words that I placed there intentionally. “The answer is still, and again, love.” I need to see them. Remind myself that I have been loved. I am still loved. I have so much love to give. Cheeks dry, above a large grin, I begin to create. Whatever you do today, do it with all the magic that love can bring. And we will be saved.


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Hearts of youth.

We started making our boxes about a week before the 14th. Covering former shoe boxes with pink and red hearts. Tin foil to add texture and shape. Folding strips of paper to make springs so the hearts would jump (almost) from the box. Anything to make our Valentine mail boxes stand out. Get noticed. Cutting a hole in the cover — awaiting our special deliveries. It was Valentine’s Day at Washington Elementary. And we did everything we could to encourage the love.

Our mothers bought us packets of premade Valentines to give to the class, but we made hearts with our hands to give to those we truly loved. We were supposed to give a Valentine to each classmate. I’d like to think we did, but I don’t think so. Even with the purest hearts of youth, it’s hard to get everything right.

I’m still working on my Valentine carrier — my heart — I suppose we need to, every day. No longer to get noticed, but just to be open, to receive. And with my chubby, unsure fingers, I cut and paste and create, in my own imperfect way, and give to the one I love. I fold these words, to spring from my heart – Happy Valentine’s Day!


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Be it ever so humble…

When I moved to France I gave up so many of my things. No, that’s not right – “gave up” sounds like a sacrifice. And it wasn’t. It was a choice. What I did really, was release a lot of my belongings, and made a choice. A choice to trade these things in exchange for experience, for feelings, for life, for love. The best choice I ever made. I will never regret it.

It’s easy to cling to items. And when those items don’t fill us up, we buy more items, different items. Items on sale. And when those items break, we search for more. But they will never fill us. Make us whole.

We are all guilty of it. Myself included. Each trip I make back to the US, I am limited by the weight of one allowed suitcase. And there is only so much I can bring, and so much I can bring back. Sometimes, it feels hard – (hard – insert laugh here) – to pass something by, not bring it with me, or bring it back. Just things, I tell myself. Only things.

What I want now, more than ever, is love and time. I choose love and time. I fill up my heart’s valise, no limits there, and I am whole.


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Of being carried.

I was watching something on netflix. I don’t even remember the movie. But an image I’ve seen a million times, on the screen, in real life, a young child being carried. And it struck me so – I wish I could remember that – that feeling of being lifted. Of being carried. Of being relaxed. Feet dangling. At ease. Held up. I have no memory of this. I’m not sure most people do.

I went to bed after the movie. Still a bit anxious from the news of the day. He knew that. I explained thoughts in fragments. Puzzles of emotions. He has a way of brushing the tear, not from my eye, no, he lets it fall to the bottom of my chin, and then catches it. Telling me it’s ok to feel. Allowing me to feel. And he’ll be there. He is there. And I know it. I release the air that worry tries to trap in my lungs, and I breathe. And breathe again. And I sleep. Feet dangling. I do remember.


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We walked to the fish market yesterday. It was a lovely day for a walk. 60 degrees. Sunny. No wind. They are doing construction just down the road from us. Cars were waiting. Blocked. We easily walked by. Smiling at the simplicity of it all. We strolled through the fish market. Such beautiful things. Les fruits de Mer! (seafood) But neither of us were really hungry, we had had lunch not that long ago. It’s hard to think about dinner when your belly is full. And what a glorious problem. We didn’t buy anything. On the walk home, we marveled at the luxury of it all. Such beautiful things offered, and us having no real needs.


We walked past a car accident. Construction chaos. Horns were honking. We easily walked by. Now I feel bad for the people involved, of course, but what a gift not to be a part of the chaos. And I understand life doesn’t always allow us this luxury, but I think a lot of times we can make the decisions that keep us out of the continuous horn honking. Because make no mistake, it’s always out there, always will be, but I don’t want to be a part of it. I like a calm heart. I always have.


I think one of the most romantic pieces I have painted is the blue VW on the side of the road. Some might question this, but I feel it. The simplicity of the car, the street. The colors that don’t shout, but embrace. The quiet beauty of being in the right place at the right time. The certainty of calm. Your heart will tell you when it’s home, but you have to be able to hear it.