Jodi Hills

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



“You sneeze just like Grandma Elsie,” my mother often told me. It always made me happy.  Maybe that sounds silly, but it is true. I suppose it’s because it wasn’t something I had to work for. It was a connection I just had. Still do. A gift to this day. A reminder of this unconditional love. I received it from my grandmother. From my mother.

There is a fatigue that comes from wanting people to like you. To love you. And it’s not always a given. Being related is not a guarantee. Some people just don’t. Won’t.  

I don’t recall ever having to try with my grandma. From the days of being plopped in a chair, I can remember just watching her. Fascinated by this ever whirling plump that stopped randomly to poke my belly, or kiss my cheek. (And I was a momma’s girl from day one. The thought of being plopped anywhere other than her lap was terrifying.) But here, in my grandma’s kitchen, seeing the ease with which my mother passed me off to her, I trusted that I would be more than ok. And I was. 

I don’t edit my daily blogs. (Maybe that’s easy to tell.) I don’t plan them in advance. I let the memory come. And simply tell you the story. I hope you can see the love in that. Because I’m not sure that love can be dazzled out of anyone. Nor can trust be forced. When it’s real, it just comes. Naturally. 

Mowing the lawn yesterday, the dust filled the air. Filled my nose. I sneezed again and again above the sound of the motor, beneath the blue of heaven’s smile. 

Love remains. Plopped in the comfort of my heart.

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Lazy Susan.

Whoever this Susan was, I liked her. And she couldn’t have been all that lazy, I thought, because her cupboard was always full. I thought Susan was the one who bought all the candy in that cupboard. Whenever we wanted a treat at my Grandma’s house, she would point to the corner cupboard and say Lazy Susan. My eager chubby brain and fingers didn’t take the time to analyze that this was just what the spinning rack was called — the spinning rack that held all my grandma’s candy. I liked believing some magical woman named Susan kept her cupboard full. Like maybe she worked directly with the Tooth Fairy. 

Something was lost when I learned there was no Susan fairy, nor Tooth, but I gained something better — the knowledge that I had a grandma who would keep her cupboard filled with treats – easy access treats – on the bottom shelf – the bottom spinning shelf – all for us to enjoy. And she didn’t buy what some called the “grandma treats” like hard mint candies, or burnt-orange peanuts. No she had Slo-pokes, and Black cows. Sugar Daddies. Toasted marshmallows. Chocolate bars and more chocolate bars. 

And as I got older. More truths came out. More losses. But one thing remained constant. The easy access of things given at my grandparent’s farm. The easy access of open spaces to run in. Secret rooms to hide in. Endless fields that said, be yourself. An open cupboard that said, keep believing in magic. And a love that remained full. Always within reach.

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On Wobbly Knees.

Last night I finished reading the book Horse, by Geraldine Brooks. To simplify my review, I will just say, “Yes.” Was it good? Yes. Should I read it? Yes. Will I be moved? Yes. Will I learn something? Yes. Is it about horses? Yes. And more? Oh, Yes!!! It spans generations, covering the issues of slavery, racism, the Civil War, art, humanity — then and now. How far we’ve come, how extraordinarily far we have to go.

I suppose I was first drawn to read it because of the central figures of the horse paintings themselves. But then it became so much more. And that is the beauty of art. When it is done well, framed on canvas or bound in words, it conveys a story. A story so fluid that it carries you — carries you with the grace and elegance of chestnut legs in the Kentucky bluegrass.

But what’s it about??? Everyone always wants the short answer. I’m sorry, but the short answer is – read it.

It’s not lost on me that hanging above my head, as I turned from page to page, was my humble painting of a horse. It is entitled, “Unconditional.” And for me that is love. But how do we get there? The only path that I have found is empathy. And the clear path to empathy is education. When we know more — we do more. When we know better — we do better. So I read. And I read some more. And I write. And I write some more. I paint. And, well, more. And I just try to do better. Live better. Racing on my own fragile legs. Racing against time, and bigotry. Racing against everyone who is more than willing to bet against you. Racing away from the conditional.

There was a popular song when I was a teenager, by Dan Fogelberg — Run for the Roses. My mom bought the 45. I played it again and again. For I was, just as the song began, “on wobbly knees, with mama beside you, to help you along…” And I was carried by the melody. Carried by the words —

“It’s breeding and it’s training
And it’s something unknown
That drives you
And carries you home
And it’s run for the roses
As fast as you can
Your fate is delivered
Your moment’s at hand
It’s the chance of a lifetime
In a lifetime of chance
And it’s high time you joined
In the dance.”

I didn’t have the word for it then – this “empathy” – this joining in the dance. But I could see the path. And I wanted to be on it. I still do. I’m still wobbling along, but I’m still learning. Maybe we all can. It’s more than “high time.”