Jodi Hills

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

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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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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.



Walking through airport security the uniformed guard waved her hand from my head to toes, as if to encompass my ensemble of jewelry and clothing, mid-wave she said, “What’s this all about?” What’s this all about? Did I have the time to explain it was my heart, my soul, my mother, my identity, my journey from the Christmas catalogs of youth to the malls of Minneapolis, to the streets of Chicago and New York and Paris? Well, she maybe didn’t need to hear all that, nor the line behind me… so I simply said, “Fashion…?” She passed me through.

But it was more than fashion. This I knew for sure. My mother had always taught me that. It was a healer. It was get up and get dressed, even when you had strep throat. It was a motivator, get dressed and go to work, even if your husband has left you. It was possibility – a look in the mirror and maybe, just maybe I could be this person I dressed to be. It was all those things. It was the secret my mother shared with me, knowing that it would save her, save me.

My mother and I often went to Chicago. Our first trip opened a whole new world. Entering this city with the freedom of no one knowing you, and the comfort of knowing you belong. Sure it started with Michigan Avenue. Of course, because it is, well, magnificent. The stores are lovely, proven, and grand. We beat the pavement, ate the food, tried on the clothes, carried the sacks until the handles made ridges in our wrists. It was glorious.

The more familiar we became with the city, the more we began to wander off the magnificent mile. One day we turned onto Oak Street. It sounded like a name out of a school play. An intimate place. So welcoming. Almost quiet. It didn’t have the shout of Michigan Ave, it had a whisper. A secret. The street smiled as we walked. It knew we were going to find our way there. It opened the little boutique doors, and said, we’ve been expecting you. Beautiful clothes, that only a select group had tried on, viewed, bothered to admire. And we were part of the few, the familiar, the welcomed and it was more than magnificent, it was glorious.

Maybe it’s because that’s how we knew each other. It is easy to show people the Michigan Avenue of your life, but the few that know your Oak Street, now that is something! Gather yourself there.

Yesterday, I was viewing a new store online. I knew my mom would like these fashions. I know her. I can wave my hand in front of her and tell you “what this is all about.” So I checked the store locator to see if there was one near her. The nearest was in Chicago… on Oak Street. I smiled and traveled back immediately.

Last, my husband and I looked at the website together. He knows my Oak Street. I am gathered in.