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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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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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.”


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Truth or dare.

My mom’s sister Karolynn lived in Minneapolis with her three children. It was a distant suburb, but coming from Alexandria (a small town two hours away) it seemed exotic.

My three cousins were just a bit younger, so I was always excited to pass some knowledge on to them, as my older brother did to me. When I went for a visit in the summer of fifth grade, I took the Greyhound bus by myself. I don’t know what year people turned from interesting to dangerous, but this was still a year of interesting bus riders.

I don’t remember ever being inside. We swam in the pool. And the neighbor’s pool. We ran around the house. Rode our bikes to the park. My aunt gave us Lucky Charms for breakfast and bologna sandwiches for lunch. She dropped us off at Valley Fair before opening hours and picked us up after closing. Again, we were lucky enough to run wild amongst the interesting.

I had just learned how to play Truth or Dare. Did they know how? No. Great. I will teach you. One person has to pick a task, either to tell the truth to an agreed upon question, or to perform the task that the others decided you should do. Like what kind of dare? they asked. Oh, nothing scary, none of us wanted that – you know something crazy or funny. Like what? I had something in mind. You know, you could ask me to do something embarrassing. Like what? Like, oh, I don’t know, you could make me go tell your mom that she’s the best aunt in the world… Wouldn’t that be embarrassing?? The truth is, I had wanted to do it, but I just didn’t have the language yet, or the courage. Oh, yes they said, that would be embarrassing – go do that! That was the dare. I acted a bit reluctant, and then ran into the house. My aunt was doing laundry. The others peaked through the back door and listened. “You have to say it really loudly so we can hear,” they said. I ran down the stairs and hugged my aunt’s waist. “You’re the best aunt in the whole wide world!” And I ran up the stairs to my giggling cousins. I could feel her smiling behind me. I dared to love them all.

It’s not always easy to say how we feel. I think I haven’t told people enough. I want to do better. People should know. My aunt should know. My cousins should know — summer days in New Brighton were wonderful. Today, as we all run off in different directions, I hope they can still feel me smiling.

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