Jodi Hills

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


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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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The yellow chair.

She was the ex-wife of Hubert Humphrey’s son. When she called I didn’t know that. She just said she was interested in two paintings – The yellow chair, and The truth about you.  I was thrilled. Yes, of course, I could deliver. The yellow chair was huge, but I was fueled with excitement.  Before I brought the paintings in, she walked me around her place. I was surprised by all the dignitaries hanging on her wall. Was that her with the president? With the queen? Who was this woman? I just kept smiling. She kept talking. And picture by picture, word by word she revealed who she was — her world living as a Humphrey – (the closest I had been before was to the airport).  We had tea, (the first time I had ever had tea), and she told me of her marriage, her divorce, the indiscretions, and I felt like I was in a movie. We hung both paintings, and I drove away. Forever changed — not because I was now hanging next to the closest thing I knew to “royalty” — I’ve never cared that much about that — no, it was because I was let in, let into her world, and trusted with her story. And to me, that’s everything. 

I was in the seventh grade when I wrote my first novel (forgive me, it was really just a long story.) Hand written on lined paper. Stapled. I read it to my friend, Cindy Lanigan. I have no idea now what it was about. I don’t even have a copy. But I remember sitting in my yellow bedroom, reading it to her. It is terrifying to share your creations – your life – your heart. But she let me in. She listened and responded and we talked about life and Carol Burnett and everything seemed achievable.  Quite possibly giving me the courage to continue. 

What a thing it is to be let in. I carry with me every open door. Every open heart. Every person who smiled on me, and listened. Who trusted on me, and shared. And I am forever home. Forever possible.


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One moment, please.

It may have been Mark Twain, (some give credit to Charles Dudley Warner) but someone once said, 

“Everybody Talks About the Weather, But Nobody Does Anything About It.”

My mother used to operate the switchboard for Alexandria Public Schools. Every winter those phones went crazy. Everyone wanted to talk about the weather! Are the buses going to be late? Why are the buses going to be late? If the buses are going to be an hour late, what time will they come? With the patience of a Nordic saint, my mother answered each call. “One moment please…” And the next call would come in. “What are you going to do about this damn storm?” he asked, not politely. She held her breath. Knowing she had her own damn storm to deal with. This life. I suppose everyone does. And most people don’t do anything about it. But she wanted to. And she did. She went to work every day. Put on her best clothes. Her best smile, sometimes merely painted on, but on none the less. And she worked, not just at this job, but at this life. To make it better for her. To make it better for me. Because she knew it was all just a moment. One moment. And she was going to live it. He shouted again on the phone line. She smiled. She was going to be more than fine. “One moment please…”
Sent from my iPad


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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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Standing on the beast.

The bronze statue The Fighter of the Spirit, by Ernst Barlach stands near the 24th Street entrance of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The statue shows a winged man holding a sword vertically, tip up, and standing on the back of a snarling beast. The statue was commissioned by the University of Kiel (Germany) and was originally placed in front of its church (Holy Spirit Church). The statue did not fit with the ideals of the ruling National Socialist party; it was vandalized and condemned as degenerate art. As a result, the statue was removed and cut into four pieces, in preparation for melting down. However, the pieces were hidden on a farm and didn’t resurface until 1946. The statue was repaired and placed in front of the Church of St. Nicholas. Two copies of the statue were made at this time; the Minneapolis Institute of Art acquired one copy in 1959. This glorious spirit survived.


Growing up, I too, had my own snarling beast. (We all do at some time.) But it was my mother who was always “tip up,” (many times saved by a farmer) — ready to fight, to declare a different life, a better life, a life above the snarls. What a direction she was given, and then gave to me! She, this fighting spirit, my mother, pointed me straight to what I love. Straight to what I live.


The beasts will always try to run in our paths, but we stand tall. Forever tip up.


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Beside still waters

I was watching a Youtube video by Laura Kampf. She is a maker. She builds things mostly out of salvaged products. Beautiful things. She passed by a broken park bench near the water where she lived, and she thought this beautiful view couldn’t be wasted, so she brought the bench home with her, repaired it and brought it back to the same spot. It wasn’t long and some vandals broke it again. She had to search for it this time, but she found it, dragged it home (a very heavy bench), and painstakingly repaired it again — this time stronger than ever – metal, and wood, lots of time, lots of care. When she was asked, “Why would you go to all of this trouble, again?” she replied, “Imagine a world where things are repaired one more time than they are broken.”

I am far away from the city I still refer to as home – Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is struggling now. It has been wounded and broken, deeply, but I know that it will be healed, rebuilt. I know the people. Good people. It will be healed with music and art. It will be healed with builders and workers. It will be healed with the disinfecting sun that shines off the lakes that surround the city. It will be repaired one more time than it is broken, and it will once again rest beside still waters.

Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet and Lake of the Isles. I have painted you. Believed in you. Loved you. And I, we, will do you proudly once again. Still.

“How do you know that? Where’s the proof?” they ask me. “Well, there’s my heart,” I say, “It’s, joyfully, in repair.”