Jodi Hills

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


500 days!

I have always been inspired, since the first time I saw it — getting bigger and bigger through my airplane window. New York. I know I am not alone. It’s in the song, after all… “If you can make it there…” The melody got louder in each beat of my heart. 

Some might say it’s cliche… and I would have been the first to agree, had it stopped at some point. But it never has. With each trip, over and over, if anything, it grows — this desire to be better. To wake up and want more — I’m not talking about things — but I guess, to simplify it, life — to want more out of life itself — to want more from myself. With each step on a New York street, I feel like I want to dress better. Walk taller. Be sure of my steps. I want to paint better – master my pieces. Create more. Write more. I become the melody. Humming along with the taxis. 

The trick is always, I suppose, not to be inspired (this is rather easy), but to keep that inspiration alive. That takes effort. Work. Faith. At first, when returning from a trip, I could keep it up. Dressing a little nicer when I went to Staples to ship out orders. Savoring Caribou’s coffee a little longer. Feeling the buzz in my hands. Oh, but how easily it could slip away, how easily I could slip into old habits of ordinary. Yellow fading.

It has been 500 days. 500 days! of this blog!! Not one day missed. It has become my New York. I have become my New York. At first, I labored (and some days still). Worried about the idea – would it come? But then I began to believe in it, trust in it, allow it to come. And it does. It has for 500 days! 

It is so easy to let the magic slip from our heart and hands. To wait for something else, someplace else, someone else, to inspire. But I don’t want to miss out. I don’t want to let one day go by without feeling this way, without feeling this buzz of life. It may not always be this blog, but I have made a promise to myself that it will be something…each day will be something…I will be my own vibrant yellow! Moving. Maneuvering. Honking even!  Unprepared to let even a day slip away. Hanging on! I am living this life!

It still may be a blur! Time moves pretty quickly! But oh, what a blur it will be!!!

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The line.

We stood in the long line. I didn’t want to be there. I glued myself to my mother’s leg. We got closer and closer. There was a long table of food. An indecipherable melange of flavor. I peaked around my mother’s hip. All I wanted was to find her dish. I knew if I could find it, I would be saved. I didn’t want something from another kitchen, another mother. “What did you make?” I asked. “What color is the bowl again?” We were taught not to hate, especially in this place, this church, but I strongly disliked the occasional pot-luck lunch. I didn’t have words for it then, but I knew there was something about “the making.” To know the maker meant something. It was important. I knew the maker, my mother. I knew her hands. And that was love. And that’s what I wanted. The only thing I would stand in line for. 

After visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I walked around the gift shop. So many beautiful things. It was hard to focus. And then it caught my eye. So small, almost indecipherable, but oh, so familiar. I moved immediately across the aisle. I held it in my hand. “Made in France,” it said. It was a magnet of the skyline of New York, including the Statue of LIberty. A line. A connection. It was familiar. It was mine. This maker, this France, I knew it. It was as warm, as familiar, as the dish my mother made, and I was saved.

Trust the line that connects from hand to heart to others. These are the makers. This is the love worth standing for.

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Are those your pants?

Years ago I started painting on my clothing – I mean on purpose. Of course I had painting clothes, but these were clothes I painted with intention. I had a pair of jeans that I covered in paint, (this was long before it was cool) and then at the bottom of one leg I painted, “I have to believe my feet will take me where I need to go.” I was wearing these pants when making a delivery of art to a store in Edina. The owner, Kevin, before I even set down the paintings, asked “Are those your pants?” Laughing, I replied, “I usually wear my own pants.”  Both laughing now, of course we both knew what he meant – he was wondering if I had designed these pants, painted on them. “Yes,” I said. “I made them. These are my pants.” 

I have always believed my feet will take me where I need to go. I didn’t know at the time it would include France, but here I am. And I believe I’m supposed to be here. There are new challenges that I am supposed to face. New adventures to be on. New loves to love. Relationships to form. Places to see. Mountains to conquer. So I painted a new pair of pants. I wanted to represent my life including where I have been and where I am now. My steps between the USA and France. The Statue of Liberty. Perfect, I thought. In so many ways. I suppose it is my way of “wearing my heart on my sleeve” – just taking it to a different level.

Throughout the years that I have shared my stories, my continuing story, the greatest gift that I receive in return is listening to yours. Then we are connected. When we share our journeys, our lives, we all become a little more human. So I tell you my story, in hopes you will tell me yours. Together, we walk in eachother’s shoes…or maybe even our pants…wherever we need to go.

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I don’t think it’s too spot on that this city is called New — New York. Every time I come here it does feel new, and probably more importantly, so do I! “Ok,” I ask myself, “what are you going to see, learn, create from all of this?” Because it’s easy to lose the magic. Magic relies on both the magician and the viewer – you have to want to see it. And, oh, how I want to see it, be it! I always have – probably because I grew up with a magician.

When I was a little girl, we heard the tales of New York, Paris… heard that everyone dresses up there — everything is elevated. I’ve been to both cities, many, many times, and it may not be completely true any more, not for everyone, but I still believe in it — this dressing for success — I suppose my mother taught me that. And it was never about “putting on airs”, it was more about being good enough, and I don’t mean for “them,” (whoever they are) I mean proving to yourself that you are in fact good enough, good and enough, more than enough to walk along, beside, within, outside, along, every day in this world.

When I was a teenager, inside our humble apartment, each morning before 7am, my mother worked her own magic. She pulled out a neatly hung ensemble from her small bedroom closet, freshly ironed, and got dressed for the Superintendent’s Office of School district 206. She was tall and thinned by angry words that no woman should ever hear. But she was beautiful. Beautiful because she made the choice to release herself from the pain, and become new! She made the choice, every day, to present her best self. And I smiled and cheered, front row.

So today I will walk down this New York street with my head held high, out of respect for my mother, my self, and this magical new day!!!! As the song says, “It’s a new dawn, a new day, it’s a new life, and I’m feelin’ good!”



The first time I took my mother to New York, we both got to be models.

Go ahead and underestimate the amount of confidence I carried with me growing up in Alexandria, Minnesota.  Now underestimate a little more, and you might reach my mother.  Oh, we survived, and even had a little fun. We looked at catalogs (nothing was online then) and dreamed, even walked the malls each weekend, and dreamed a little more.  We tried on outfits and gained a little more confidence. We went to Minneapolis and grabbed on to a little more.  Then Chicago – look at us in Chicago!  Our strides got a little longer, our backs a little straighter, and sometimes we even dared to say, “Hey, we look pretty good.”  Which may sound vain – but no – that was pure joy! 

Maybe you need to know a little backstory.  My mom, one of nine farm kids, wasn’t nurtured in fashion.  Practical, stained, sturdy, this was the norm.  There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s very functional.  But function is not often what dreams are made of. And so this little girl dreamed. Alone. Her mother, forever aproned and cooking – nine children – still found time to sew. And my mom, forever washing dishes – eight siblings – became a fashion designer, in her heart.

Now, dreams really don’t amount to much without confidence.  And that’s another hurdle.  How my mother found it, was nothing short of fantastical, but she did. Shedding rumors and divorce and illness, she still managed to dress herself, every day, in something that made them think, “She’s from Alex?”

And she was.  We were.  And off we flew New York.  I had just finished the book, “Slap on a little lipstick, you’ll be fine” — again, thanks to my mother — and Guideposts magazine was going to do a feature story on it. My mom accompanied me. They picked us up in a limo, drove us to the meat packing industry, to a giant loft of an acclaimed photographer. They plucked my eyebrows and did my makeup, slid red leather over black silk and I was delighted, transformed, giddy!  My mom watched from the corner as they took photo after photo, smiling and smiling more – no direction needed!  And then the photographer said, why don’t we take a few with your mother!  Yes, yes!  I said.  Oh, I don’t… my mother hesitated. (It takes a while to build a confident soul.)  You have to!  You must!  I want you to!  And she came – into the shot.  And we hugged and smiled and captured it forever!  Look, Grandma!  We’re models! 

They put the pictures in the magazine – even my grandma!

This week, the young poet, Amanda Gorman, asked us to acknowledge the shoulders we’ve stood on, and what we stand for now.  These are the women that have held me up.  

My grandma’s photo sits next to my sewing machine.  I once drew a picture of her hands, and wrote, “If she did worry, it never showed in her hands.”  Perhaps that was the strength that allowed my mother to dream.  Shoulders.

I painted a picture of a dress designer’s mannequin for my mom, and wrote, “Not all of her dreams came true, but she was never sorry she had them.”  Shoulders.

These women gave me the strength to dream, to fall in love, to live. They are the reason I believe.  These beauties of strength, survival, endurance, and joy — no one has ever worn it better!  
Look, Grandma!  Look, Mom!  You’re models!!!!!


The process

Yesterday I painted Fran Lebowitz for the soul purpose of painting Fran Lebowitz.  I would not sell her (in fact, I knew I would be giving her to a friend who adores her). I would not gain any exposure. There are no hashtags. Fran Lebowitz does not own a phone.  She would not see it.  She doesn’t own a computer. She would not come to France, because she doesn’t leave New York.  No, this was about the process. The joy of taking a blank piece of paper and creating an image. Seeing her come to life with each stroke. I love to draw. To paint. To create. I really love it. And I get to do it!  Imagine that!  Imagine – doing what you love!!! Maybe the best way I have to show my gratitude for this, is to do it – to enjoy it – for all that it is.  And so I painted Fran Lebowitz, not for the money, or the selfie, or the hashtag, but simply to give thanks for the opportunity to do it.  And I am grateful.  I packed her up this morning and she is on her way to my friend’s house in Texas, where I know she will be loved.  Gratitude keeps giving. 

Today I encourage you to enjoy the process.  Of living.  If you are baking a cake, lick the batter – share it with your kids, your husband, yourself. Smell the sugar melding with the butter as it bakes.  Pour some tea and enjoy. 

If you’re drawing in your sketchbook, don’t be afraid to scribble.  Scribble – it’s fun to even say the word.  Life is not perfection, it’s process.

Whatever you do today, take a minute to enjoy it.  This is how we give thanks. And if we’re lucky, truly blessed, we’ll get another day tomorrow.  Enjoy!