Jodi Hills

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


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Sketchbook.

You might think it would be the opposite. When painting, there is a looseness, a letting go, that must be learned. (Maybe it’s relearned – children seem to have it, but as they get older, it tightens up — I guess because they (we) become too aware, too concerned and it sucks the life right out of the art — I guess the same could be said about life itself.) 

Through daily practice, I gain the confidence of letting go. Letting go of the worry of perfection, and just allowing the image to come to life. Letting the canvas breathe freely, along with myself.  And the beauty comes, in my humble opinion, not in the exact line, but the movement, the strokes. 

Maybe it’s easier on the canvas, but I want the same for my daily life. To let go of the nagging need to please, to be exact. And it comes, slowly, with daily practice. Each day I can see it a little bit more clearly, the beauty of my imperfect strokes — and I have to let go of those who can’t. I suppose that’s the art of living. And oh, how beautiful it can be.


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Learning to fly.

It was rare for someone not to get smacked in the face with the tethered ball. Yet we played. Again and again on the playground at Washington Elementary. Just a ball, tied to a pole. You hit it and hit it until it couldn’t go around any more. It was a strange way to win or lose, this inability not to be able to play anymore. After the brand name of the ball was imprinted on my face, I would think, you know I could just go to the swings.

Some days I feel like I’m beating the same ball around and around. Trying to learn the same lesson again and again. Then it smacks me in the face, and I realize, “You’ve done this before. You’ve learned this. You can learn it again, and move on.”

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Tethering ourselves to the negative thoughts that spin round and round. Replaying them until they make an imprint on our hearts and brains. Today, I give you permission, I give myself permission, to just walk away. Try something new. Let yourself be free. Untethered. Maybe today, you try the swings. Maybe today, you learn how to fly.


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Freedom.

It’s remarkable, I suppose, but there has never been a time in my life when I haven’t felt free. Imagine that. Oh, sure, there have been so many obstacles and challenges. Churches that said you can’t come here. Schools I couldn’t afford. (Lots of things I couldn’t afford.) But in my heart and mind, I have always felt free to make a choice, sometimes a different one when one path failed, but always free to make that new choice.

Maybe it’s because I had a mother, who passed by the inexpensive levels of the department store and dared to believe that she deserved something beautiful, sometimes even if it was just to look. Maybe it’s because I had teachers who, without knowledge of my position or circumstance, said you can be a writer, you can be something, anything. Maybe it’s because, even in my darkest hours, the sun had the audacity to rise each morning, and dare me to come along. Maybe it’s because in those sunlit mornings I could see that even when some of those churches, schools, country clubs, stores, were maybe off limits or out of my budget, I could see that the roads were always open. So I took them.

Not to be all Pollyanna. There are no free rides on these open roads. There will be days you have to fight your very soul to take that next step, only to climb over the next road block. But keep moving. Keep moving. Rest when you need to, but never quit. Freedom isn’t given, it’s worked for, step by step.

Yesterday, here in France, we were having a family barbecue. I learn a little more of the French language, word by word, day by day. It used to feel like drowning, being in a group of people all laughing and talking when I had no idea what was going on. But each day I kick and thrash and burst my head above the water and I join in the conversation, because I want to, I need to, and I am free to do it! What a glorious feeling that is – to be a part of something bigger than myself, bigger than my own country even – this is freedom! And even though it was only the 3rd, I laughed and smiled and I celebrated! I hope you can do the same. Today, and every day after. Happy Fourth of July!


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Disguised in blue.

I started telling my secrets — small secrets, secrets that fit into the basket of my banana seat bike — telling these secrets to the tiny waves of Lake Latoka. They were not big waves, but they were not big secrets. And so they would roll out, back to the deep water, dark water, and I would be free. Free from carrying them.

What a relief to be free. As I got older, some secrets (or worries) got bigger. But so did my lakes. On the shores of Lake Michigan, I released more than I could carry. And again, I was free.

And when I needed a bigger tide, there was the ocean, the sea…and never have I been turned away. Each wave telling me, go ahead, I can handle it. Let me carry it.

This comfort of shore, what a gift. So I paint it again and again, to remind me of all that it has offered to carry. And for all those people, disguised in blue, who have done the same. I give thanks for you, every day.

I see you standing there, toes dug in the sand. I nod my head and smile. We both know what we’re thinking, “Roll tide!”


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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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Stuck, or free?

Every time I have a knot in my shoelace, which is every day, I wonder, “Why do I always have a knot in my shoelace?”  But I never think, “Well, I won’t walk today.” I love to take walks. Something new is always discovered, worthy of every knot struggled.  


We could stop doing things every time there was a struggle, but soon we would all be paralyzed. There will always be difficulties, large and small. Knots in shoelaces. Rocks in shoes. Paths unknown. But we move ahead.


Georgia O’keefe said,  “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”  


Everyone has fear.  Difficulties. Do you hear that?  Everyone.  Something, someone will always try to stop you, stand in your way. Always. But you have a choice. A decision to make each day. Stuck, or free? Release the knot. Lace up. Let go. Look at the road. It’s open.