Jodi Hills

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


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Being Georgia.

I’d like to say that I have a healthy respect for our garden tools – the weedwacker, the chipper – when in fact it would be more accurate to say that I am actually afraid of them. It doesn’t stop me from using them though. 

When Dominique uses the weedwacker, he finishes with little red welts all over his body. Me, I dress like I’m part of the New York City Bomb Squad. A cap. Safety glasses (and a visor, or two masks). Jeans. Gloves. And knee high steel toed boots. Yes, it’s hot. But it makes me feel safe.

We all have our own comfort zones. With everything. We have our own way of coping. Surviving. Living. I don’t think people would make fun of me for wearing what I wear in the garden — and to be honest, I really wouldn’t care if they did. I have to remember this for all of life’s challenges. I will cope as I see fit. And if it works for me – then it works for me. I have to give myself that freedom. And offer the same to you. 

Life is messy and at times frightening. As I stripped down in the afternoon sun — taking off all of my protective gear — I eagerly made my way to the pool. The glorious reward. Nothing feels better. Another challenge survived. 

It was Georgia O’keeffe who said, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life—and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” Today, as I step into life’s garden, I will don my protective gear, smile as I channel the brave and elegant Georgia, and I will dare to make it beautiful!


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You are part of my story, and it is beautiful.

Becky gave me one red cherry yesterday.  It was delicious. I named our cherry tree Becky. It seemed so obvious to me. Tom Sawyer describes Becky Thatcher when he first sees her, “the new girl in the garden… a lovely little creature…wearing a white summer frock.” How could this not be our Becky — our lovely cherry tree. She is, in fact, the newest of our trees. She hasn’t yet produced what one might call a real crop. Just a smattering of red cherries, but the most beautiful cherries I have ever seen.  

Summertime, to me, will always mean youth. The days are brighter, longer. Everything greens and blooms and grows, and somehow, I feel, so do I. 

Probably the first to bloom in my brain were the words of Mark Twain. Tom Sawyer. Huckleberry Finn. At the time they seemed more real than almost anyone I knew.  They jumped off the page. They were alive. They were my American childhood.

Through the years these books have been banned. But then again, so have I. I remember one church that wouldn’t let us in because my mother was divorced. We couldn’t go to the golf club because we were too poor. (And this I realize is nothing compared to how others are banned, but I, we, felt it just the same.)  And maybe it’s childish, (and part of me hopes so, because how pure is that!) but I still believe that we can learn and grow and become better. We can treat people better. All people. We can take the light of summer and start to see who we really are. Possibly even bloom. Summer is so open. So freeing. Maybe we can be the same. 

The birds are singing. I see Becky swaying in the morning breeze. Everything is still possible.


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“You had me at lavender…”


It’s not like I thought honey came from a plastic bear, but not far.

Yesterday, on our small village tour, we bought some lavender honey. Before living in France, I had never really thought of the magic of bees. Bees. The work. The patience. The craft. Nothing short of magical. How they take, without harming, from their surroundings and create something so fabulous. What a lesson to be learned. I want to be better at this. 

Of course we needed bread for the honey. In the spirit of the bees, I made it. Taking the hours to mix, and wait, and rise, and wait, and roll, and wait, and bake. But the payoff, a house that smells better than any boulangerie…and the taste of bread fresh from the oven! 

This patience is a tricky thing to learn. We always want the answers right away. I am guilty of it for sure. Needing to know all the outcomes. How’s it going to be? I can get so far ahead of myself that I spiral out of the possibility of now. But now I have the lessons of honey. The sweet taste that tells me, relax. You don’t need to know how the magic works, just believe in it, taste it. It’s lavender. Lavender. And for a moment, this moment, I am saved.


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Time for an upgrade.

I wasn’t having the best day the other day. I was worried about something that seems too ridiculous to mention now. But I had another task to complete. I was working on the “about me” page for my website upgrade. I had a few photos in mind that I wanted to put with the story. As you might imagine, I have tons of photos on my computer – art, travel, family… I started searching. At first it seemed laborful. So many photos. Then I started really looking at them. I started remembering. Enjoying. Giving thanks. What an adventure! And I felt a little embarrassed that I was squandering my day with worry. I looked at everything that was, and I couldn’t wait to see what could be!!!!  

A lot of you say that what I write is such a good reminder for you. I’m reminding myself along the way. We all have to do the work. And as laborful as it seems sometimes, it’s so worth it. 

You’ll have to wait to see my “about me” page. It’s coming soon. But I encourage you, from time to time, make it a task for yourself — pull out the box of old photos, scroll through your computer, read your journal, listen to your heart. What you have lived through is amazing! Gather that strength and then go out and make some new memories! It’s about you, and it’s about time! Enjoy your day!


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Heart song.

My mother had just begun piano lessons. Only a little girl. I don’t know how many lessons she had, but not many, and it was in these few moments that this piano teacher (and I loosely use the word teacher, because clearly she was not, as you will see in a second), it was this awful woman that said, not to my grandparents (which would have been bad enough) no, she said it to my mother, this sweet little hopeful fingered girl, she told her, “You’re wasting your parents’ money.” I’m still aghast! What a soul crushing thing to say. Now, my mother may have never become a concert pianist, but we’ll never know. And it was only for her to decide. But she didn’t get that chance. Then.

Most of our children of the world will not become professional athletes, professional singers, or dancers, or painters. But we aren’t raising “professionals,” we are raising humans. Humans with thoughts and hopes and dreams and souls. And it takes a long time to build a soul, filling it with music and movement and kindness and possibilities. And we should never be defined by money (I guess that’s what we are basing the word professional on). We can still be dancers, even if we make our living at the bank. We can be singers if we sing. Painters if we paint. And we get to decide.

It took a long time, but she got there, my mother…After all the tears and questions she realized that only she could decide if her heart was disposable or not…and it wasn’t. It was bruised and possibly even broken at times, but the amazing organ that it was, is, it kept beating, keeping time to her own true rhythm, the beat that would soothe her, save her, and play once again, the lovely heart song that only she could create.


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Still life.

Still-life paintings are really just, well, life. They probably say more about the viewer than the artist. I think a still-life painting works if you stop, breathe, and let the beauty in with each inhale, each exhale. Slowly. 

And I suppose, that’s what life is. Taking in. Letting go. Every day there are still beginnings. Still endings. Still life. We just have to find the beauty of it all.

When I look at this painting, some days, it is my rest. I just breathe. I am the pear in the bowl. And other days, I am a kitchen in Provence, with all the scents of what’s to become, to be made. It gives me what I need.

Life will do that, if you let it. If you dare ask for what you need, and then see it, allow it, become it. In the stillness, it will come. Believe it. Look for it. All the beauty that you need, is right there in front of you. Still.


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Little lamb.

Margaux got her first ipad. She’s only 11. Still a little lamb. She adores art. She fell in love with my ipad (middle aged when I got my first one). She loves to draw using the Procreate app. It’s a wonderful application to be sure. I use it. Millions do. And maybe this is where my hesitation comes from. The millions. The sheep. 

I want for her to embrace all technology. All that the future holds. Progress is good. Yes. But there is so much more. 

The pencil sharpeners we had in school hung at the front of the class at Washington Elementary. Right beside the door. Silver. Heavy duty. Bolted into the wall. The handle made for anxious little lamb arms to circle round and round with all their sweaty might – to achieve that fine point, fit for cursive writing, for cursive drawing. And it was something to go to the front of the class. To step away from the flock and make your own point. We didn’t have words for it then, but it was probably our first risk, our first chance, to bravely stand alone with our Number Two pencil, and prepare to create.

I’m thrilled that Margaux has an ipad. How lucky! But I’m still going to be the one to show her the open fields of paper, and pencils and paint. Of freshly cut wood. Sanded. Of gessoed canvas and stick drawings in the sand. Gently push her to the open door, with tools sharpened, mind and heart wide open. Cheering all the while, as this little lamb is on her way.


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Yes, and …


In the world of improvisation, (which is really just living), the main rule is that when offered a line, an opportunity, you must reply with “yes, and…”  Without this, the conversation, stops, and once it stops, then it’s over – there is no show, no living.  I guess this is more than true for life itself.


In high school, I think we think, well, if we can just graduate, then that will be it – we will know who we are.  I played on the volleyball team. Linda “Toes” Johnson was the best jumper on the team. It was like she had springs. We decided it was all in her toes, hence the nickname. She had the longest toes we had ever seen. She was Toes!  We called out her name during practice, during games. I would find it hard to believe that Linda, today, still defines herself as Toes.  


If we are truly living, we invent ourselves every day. We practice. We become. So if you ask me, are you from Alexandria, I reply, “Yes, and, Minneapolis, and Chicago, and New York, and France…”  Are you the writer? “Yes, and the painter, and blogger, and friend, and daughter, and wife, and..


There is so much to learn. To discover. To be. Thank God!  So today, I write something here, throw a little paint on a canvas, and I build. I listen to your replies and I say, yes, and I build. I listen to my heart’s whisper, and I say, yes, and… and I keep building. “What?” you ask. My soul. I’m building my soul. 

In high school, we imagined that Linda could fly – why in the world would we not imagine that for ourselves?  So, I ask you today, are you becoming?