Jodi Hills

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


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A blink of blue

We decided to get lunch before taking pictures at the lake. It was a beautiful, sunny day when we went into the restaurant. We had the most delicious sushi. We stepped outside under a gray cloud. Wow – that changed quickly. Still, we went to the lake. The sky, was a mixture of grays and whites. Full of movement and rumble. It wasn’t the beauty we had seen just 45 minutes ago, but it was beautiful! We walked along the shore. The golden leaves popped out against the gray. The lake’s sky, as if to thank us for still coming out in the ever changing weather, blinked a brilliant shot of blue. It was so magnificent! It lit the air and my heart with hope.

Life moves and changes – often faster than we’d like, but we still need to show up. Find the beauty. And forever cling to even the smallest blink of blue, the promise of hope. Can you see it? Can you feel it? It’s beautiful!!


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Tuesdaying

Shakespeare has been credited for creating hundreds of words for his plays. I’d like a little of that Shakespeare invention now. I think we need a new word for dreams. You know, the supposed daytime ones – the kind they mean when they say, “Follow your dreams…” Well, the person who created that statement has never spent a night in my head. Yikes. Those are some dreams – terrible dreams. And I would really rather not associate anything I love, anything I want to create, that I want to follow, with such horrible moments. So I search for a new word.


Because maybe, (even for you lucky ones that don’t experience these horrible dreams) maybe, they aren’t really ever dreams at all, these “daytime, heart-filled, hopeful goals” that we want to achieve. “Dreams” sound somewhat unreachable, or not even real. But I say, these “daytime, heart-filled, hopeful goals that we want to achieve”, they certainly can be real — very real. But they take work. Aaaaah, work. People don’t really want to hear that — that’s so not “dreamy.” And it isn’t. It’s gritty, and exhausting (in the best possible way)!


When I awoke this morning, from an awful dream, tears running down my face, I was never so happy for some reality!! The reality of homemade bread and jam, and the smell of coffee that fills the kitchen. The reality of love beside me. The sun in the sky. The birds singing. And another glorious opportunity to create. Create what I love. Write down the words. Move the paint. Do the work! This is my glorious reality.
Reality isn’t boring. It’s beautiful – or it sure can be! You can create your own reality — far better than any dream! Be curious. Be inventive. Be open. Do the work! And you will make love that is real. Friendships that are real. Jobs and art and lives that are fantastically different, and curious and very, very real!


Shakespeare saw a need, and filled it. When there wasn’t the perfect word, he created it. Or he took an existing noun and made it a verb (this perhaps is the ultimate definition of doing the work — taking your noun of a life and turning it into a verb of living!)


Today, when you are Tuesdaying, maybe forget the dream, and awaken to all the possibilities around you, within you!


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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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Nothing small.

“Why didn’t you tell me I was small?” she asked her mother.
“Because I never thought so,” she replied.
“No really. Am I small?” she asked again.
“You fill my heart with joy. Could anything small do that?” her mother replied.
She smiled. And felt a world of possibility.
“I wish I were beautiful,” she told her mother.
“You light up the sky, my love.” Her mother showed her the stars.
“What if I’m not smart enough?” she cried before leaving.
“You are stronger than you think.” Her mother held back her tears.
“What if I’m not strong enough?” her mother asked the open sky.
“I love you,” she sang to her mother as she flew.
Love held her. Could anything small do that?

(Chickadee – from the book “Bird Song” by Jodi Hills)

I found something huge yesterday. (Yes, I’ve been deep diving in the cleaning department). Well, what I found is only about 1″ x 1/2″, but to me it’s huge! A pencil sharpener. Even in its original packaging. Unopened. Sometimes the universe just knows what you need. (Or maybe it always does, and we’re just not looking.) And the most important thing of all – it works!!! That may not seem extraordinary, but believe me, I have a lot of pencils, for all types of drawing, and I, until yesterday, did not have a pencil sharpener – that worked. I have one that you just spin and spin and spin and nothing ever happens. I don’t think you should have to lose weight while sharpening a pencil. I have another that, no matter what you put in, it only takes out that one side, and you’re left with the shard of wood that you try to pick off, and it gets stuck in your fingernail, and you start all over again, getting the same result. I have another that absolutely fits no pencil that I own. I have no idea what it’s for. And my last one, has the most voracious appetite, eating everything inserted. None of these I actually purchased. They were all left behind from Dominique’s family. (Maybe left behind for good reasons.) But yesterday, aah yesterday, I found it. I opened it with such hope — oh, the tenacity of HOPE! — yes, I opened it and tried the closest pencil. The most perfect point. I tried another. Perfect. Easy. I tried charcoal. Yes. Lead, yes! Colored – sure, why not! Soft – no problem. Perfect points all. I wanted to fling open the doors of the studio and shout to the world – it works – it really works! I raised up my best Sally Field’s impression to the sky, “You like me – you really like me!”

I know it’s a pencil sharpener, yes, it’s small, but it takes that one thing in my life and makes it so much easier, makes it delightful. Nothing small can do that.

I guess it’s always the little things that make up a grand life. If you look at the ingredients of a croissant, it’s almost nothing, and extremely ordinary, but rolled and rolled, it becomes something magical. And shared with someone you love — even better. While eating our croissants at breakfast my husband said, “We have to find or make these for your mother, because she would really love them.” I told my mom that later in the day. She beamed – I could feel it over the telephone. He had thought of her. Just a little thing, but oh, so magical. The universe does this for us every day. Certainly we can do it for each other.


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Surprise

Not that much surprised her anymore and she felt badly about that. She wanted to live in a world where it was surprising when someone left the one they promised to love. In a world where the words homeless and lonely weren’t commonplace. A world that was surprised, horrified, by violence and lies. Where it was simply unheard of to hurt a child. Where were all the surprises? Where was the pure and astonishing beauty of kindness? Was she foolish to believe such a world could exist?


This morning at breakfast I tasted something for the first time. When making jam, you have to boil the fruit with sugar for a long time. As it boils, a frothy substance rises to the top. Google told me that you spoon that off so your jam isn’t cloudy. Dominique told me to save it. It seemed strange to me, but so far, he hasn’t led me astray, so I saved it. We put it onto our croissants this morning. It was the most creamy, peachy deliciousness I have ever tasted. I guess goodness still rises to the top. I have tasted it. I believe in it.


Just the fact that I can trust the person that sits across my breakfast table, with my whole heart, is a beautiful surprise. The world may not be a perfectly surprising place anymore, but some people still are… therein lies the hope, and the most beautiful surprises of all.


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Nothing here I can’t rise above.

Yesterday I felt a little off. The whole day. I just couldn’t find my footing. My place. I don’t really know why it happens, but every once in a while it does. And why wouldn’t it? I guess it would be more strange if it never did. There is probably a way to live this life without feeling anything. Protect yourself from the lows by never experiencing the highs. Guard yourself from any sort of pain by refusing to love. But I don’t want to live like that. I want to feel it, really feel it. I want this life to shake me up with joy, dampen me with tears of tenderness, and rattle me to the core with love. Because that is something. That is a life lived! But with all that shaking and rattling, I know I’m going to get knocked off my feet once in a while. But, OH!, do I know how to rise!


I think it’s easier to trust people with a little dirt on their knees. I brush mine off and tell you that you can trust me. I brush mine off and tell the mirror that I can trust myself. The sun has risen, and so have I! It’s going to be a great day!


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Don’t dig your toes in.

We have become polarized in so many ways the past few years. “But they didn’t vote right.” “They aren’t wearing a mask.” “They’re protesting the wrong way.” “Who do they think they are?” “They can’t be serious!” “It’s just so obvious!!!” Each side certain of their beliefs. And not just certain, planted, stuck.

I started practicing yoga. There is a pose called tree pose. You have to balance on one foot, bringing your other heel half way up that balanced leg. When you feel steady, you can bring your hands to your heart, and eventually make branches by reaching your hands above your head. Tree Pose improves your sense of balance and coordination. Regular practice will improve your focus and your ability to concentrate in all areas of your life, particularly during those times when you might normally feel “off-balance.” This pose has a positive impact on the grace and ease with which you approach all circumstances, even outside of your yoga class.

The yoga instructor I listen to online tells me something every day (and I need to hear it every day). In the middle of the pose, when you might start to wobble, she says, “Don’t dig your toes in the ground, it won’t make it any easier.”

Don’t dig your toes in. I need to hear that. To live that. People will have different opinions. Different likes. Different tastes. And the human reaction is often to fight back immediately, as if the angered certainty will change someone’s mind. It doesn’t.

Instead, I want to focus on my own quiet certainty – my own balance. From my toes to my hands, my hands that gather first at my heart, as they should, then over my head. That quiet balance that works for me. That gives me strength. That gives me peace.

I wiggle my toes, because even in all the uncertainty, life is still fun, life is still filled with grace. Find your balance. Enjoy your day!


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Until today

I’ve never tried charcoal on wood before, until yesterday. I found a piece of wood from an old bureau that was cut apart and in the scrap pile. I sanded it down. Gave a coat of acrylic white, just for a base, and then drew with the charcoal. It went on so smoothly. It was as if the wood wanted it. It welcomed and held the charcoal and the rub of my fingers, like no other material I had used before. It was new and familiar at the same time.


It’s amazing what you can do, what you can learn, just by adding two words to your vocabulary — “until today.” I have never made brioche, until today. I have never seen the sun rise in those colors, until today. I have never dared to ask for it, until today. I never thought I could survive that, until today. I never thought myself capable of letting go, of becoming, until today. I never believed it was possible, until today.


Today is a day to try something new — or even again, for the first time — like love! It just might be strangely brand new and gloriously familiar, all at the same time. Today!


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The show

The show.

My first solo show in France was in a cathedral in Carpentras. You can imagine the size by its title “cathedral” – had it been small, I guess it would have been a church. And it was huge! Both impressive and intimidating. How would I fill such a space?

The answer was in the window of the small house next to the cathedral. It was one of the most beautiful windows I had ever seen. It stopped me in the street. Bold red shutters framed the window, dressed in the most delicate lace, and accented with flowers that grew on the sill. The marks from the latches breathed a daily opening. This window was alive. It was filled with life. And I knew what my show would represent – a life – my life.

I filled the cathedral with my story — with the same hopes of presenting, I guess, just like this window, that someone lives here. Someone lives in these paintings. Amid all of these colors and strokes is a life, framed with the boldness of red, the fragility of lace and the daily growth of a flower.

The largest cathedrals we have to fill are the lives we are living. And life, for sure, can be both impressive and intimidating, but oh, how beautiful! What a show! How are you going to fill yours today? Open the shutters wide — let’s begin.


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Blue Mind

I wanted to tell her that there is this thing – something better than a thing – this phenomenon that happens when you are close to the water. It’s called Blue Mind. I had only heard of it a few days ago, but had experienced it my whole life.


When I take a swim in the pool in the morning – it transports me back to 10 years old, riding my bike to Lake Latoka. Not parking the bike, just letting it fall into the sand. Kicking off my shoes, and shorts, racing into the water. Then floating. And swimming. And feeling the everything and nothing of being weightless. The everything and nothing of being without worry. This glorious everything and nothing buoying me for an endless summer.


Now the “experts” will say that Blue mind” is characterized as a mild state of meditation that evokes a sense of calm, peacefulness, happiness and contentment. It’s your brain’s subconscious, positive reaction to being on, in or near water. You instantly feel a higher sense of wellbeing, slower breathing and lower heart rate.


That sounds right too. And I wanted to tell her all of that, but I didn’t know all of the French words, and she was crying, and it seemed too long to explain. I started to say something and the sight of the Mediterranean Sea caught my eye and my breath.

I learned a long time ago that joy arrives in every shade of blue. I smiled. Hugged her, and thought, we could probably just go outside.