Jodi Hills

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


Good drivers. Good kissers.


I am different. 

And not just from you.  I am different from everyone. 

I’m even different from who I used to be.

First, I was a cowboy…when they asked me, “Who are you supposed to be?” at the Halloween door.  Then I was a nurse, then an acrobat and a ghost…but I didn’t really know “who I was supposed to be.” 

They say, “be yourself” – like you have any idea who that is!!!!

Yourself.  Right.  Like there’s a manual or something.  So you try a few things.  Some work.  Some don’t.   And you do the things you do, while becoming someone else.  And then you’re different again.  Now what?

I’m different.  That used to be so hard to say. 

For years I tried to force that round peg into that square hole.

“Oh I must fit in.  Look I fit.”

Squeeze.  Ouch.

I’m not weird, really!  I’m just like you.  As the visions raced through my head on horseback, with white uniforms and cartwheels.

“Wait…I’m happy…What makes you happy, makes me happy. 

Look, I’m happy….


I’m not.”

So then I believed if I wasn’t happy, if I wasn’t them, being themselves, then I must be wrong. 

I don’t talk like you.

I don’t hear what you hear.

I don’t think like you.

I don’t see what you see.

I don’t look like you.

I don’t even smell like you.

(some days I’m not proud of that)

So maybe I was wrong, but I could still laugh though.   I could make myself smile. 

And I found myself smiling more.  I didn’t feel so wrong when I let myself smile.

When I smiled I could see these little flecks of green and blue light up in my eyes.

Yes, I looked in the mirror.  “Who are you supposed to be?”  I looked long and questioned hard.  The colors were there.  I saw all the beautiful colors. And they were true.

I saw the colors.   I saw the purple passions and reds on fire… The green growth

And the warmth of blue… the indecision of gray, and the strength of brown…wishing  whites, and playful pinks… golden hopes and silver dreams.  My reflection answered.  I was supposed to be brave.  I was supposed to be colorful.   I was supposed to be different. And it wasn’t just OK, it was beautiful!

I eased my way into freedom.

No one gave me permission.  They don’t have to…. and they can’t.  This is my journey.

I have burned and thrown and lost every map I’ve held, but I’m here. 

I am here, and I am different.

I am not round.  I am not square.  I’m not even a peg.

I’m not certain what that makes me… but I am me.

And I am certain that this glorious experience has to be this way. 

I’m certain that it won’t be easy.  Certain that it shouldn’t be.

Certain that I not only can be me, that I have to be.

Certain that I can’t destroy what I don’t understand, even when it’s me.

Certain that you have to be different too.  You must be you.

And that’s what joins us.  We’re not the same, but we’re in this together….

awakened by the same sun, comforted by the same moon.

Blown my winds of change. 

Drawn in by laughter and music.

We sing and we dance and we march and we drum.

We are dampened and nourished by tears.

Terrified by love, we want nothing more.

We’re all curious about when we actually use the math we learned in high school.

We underestimate the length of our feet, and the strength of our spirit.  We are tested daily.

We all think we are good drivers and good kissers.

We find it hard to forgive, and want so badly to be forgiven.

We are scared.  We are vulnerable.  We walk crowded paths alone, carrying suitcases of damage, and “I’ll show you.”  We cross paths and passions  and tempers and temples. 

We are praised.  We are broken. 

To prove we exist, we paint our names on the sides of buildings, the corners of wrapped canvas, and the faces of children.

We are on shoulders.  We are on knees.

We shout “why?” and “why me?”.

We know the only way this puzzle is solved, is by bringing in all the other shapes.

I need you.  You need me.

We need the rounded, jagged, splattered, and completely different shapes.

We need to come together.

I will no longer wear my true colors timidly.  I will be brave enough to be colorful…to be different.  So “be yourself.”.. whatever that means…. no really, WHATEVER that means!  It’s not just OK, it’s beautiful!

I can see that beauty in you.  I can see it in me.  And wouldn’t it be great, if in just this way, we were all the same.

First, I was a cowboy…  who are you supposed to be?

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I was a bird.

blue-bird-small20 years ago, Jeremy Broun was raped. I was about to write brutally raped, but of course it was brutal. All rape is brutal. I do not want to clarify it, as if others are not. She was raped and beaten for 5 hours by a man let out of prison, commuted on a life sentence, just 2 months before. This is a major part of the story, as it changed so many lives. He went on to murder many times before being caught again. Jeremy Broun was the only woman to survive. If you want to learn more about these crimes, please google Jeremy Broun, or her daughter, Samantha Broun (as I do not want to type the man’s name). Today, I just want to focus on this lovely woman (Yes, Jeremy is her name – her parents were expecting a boy).

Jeremy was a singer. She sang publicly , profressionally (even on Broadway), among friends, at home. Sometimes just walking down the street. As she explained it, “she was given a voice.” 20 years after being tortured, beaten, bound, raped and terrorized, her daughter, traumatized by the event in her own way – (it was her mother – he did this to her mother) – decided to interview her and the people involved. Her daughter, Samantha, is an accomplished reporter. I cried during most of the interview, but the thing that hit me the hardest was this. She asked her mother what the scars were…. what were her scars… Her mother paused to catch herself. I imagined her going through the list, putting them in some order, but she said this. “Well, I can’t sing.” “I can’t sing.” My heart and my eyes wept. “I was a bird, and now I can’t sing.”


She explained that if she tried to sing, she would only cry. I cried for her. But then I knew, it was not my tears she needed, she needed my voice. I have been painting birds for the past year. I have been writing their songs. Everyone has a voice, but not everyone is able to sing. For some reason, there are people who will try to take away that voice. We must do all that we can to return it, or give them our own.

So I ask you, if you can sing, and I mean just sing, not if you’re a Broadway singer, not if you’re paid to go on the stage… no, if you can sing, if you have the courage to raise your voice, if you can sing and be joyful and thoughtful… if you can sing with empathy, and grace, and just pure love for the heart songs that come from within… if you can raise that voice – do it! Sing! Sing for yourself. Sing for your family. Your friends. Strangers. People in the news. People in other countries. Sing for people who don’t look like you. Sing for the lonely. Sing for the hurt. Sing for crowds. Sing for mothers. And children. Sing for the single. Sing.

And if you can’t sing. If someone has taken your voice, know that you are not alone. Grab the hand of someone near you. And listen. Sway. Feel the music. Join in if you can. It is safe in the song.

Harper Lee tells us, “‘Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird… Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy…but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

I sing for Jeremy. I sing for you. I sing with you. I will sing my heart out for us!

I leave you with the words and melody of Karen Carpenter,

blue-bird-oldSing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.

Sing, sing a song
Let the world sing along
Sing of love there could be
Sing for you and for me.



A Life Sentence: Victims, Offenders, Justice, And My Mother

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Good Deed, for the day?

dig-deep“Well, you did your good deed for the day…” I’m sure I have said this. To others, to myself. And I probably thought, well, that it was a good thing to say. I was listening to a podcast the other morning, and they were talking about compassion, about the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule or law of reciprocity is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated oneself. It is a maxim of altruism seen in many human religions and human cultures. The funny thing is, it doesn’t say, treat others as you would like to be treated, once a day. To live a compassionate life, to be compassionate toward yourself, and toward others (and I think both have to take place); I guess we have to do that all the time. All the time. Be good all the time. That sounds a bit terrifying actually. I already feel nervous about failure. But if I think about it, and admit to myself that of course I’m going to fail, of course we all will fail, no one is perfect, then maybe it’s not so terrifying. Here’s the thing, I could fail even if I was trying once a day – or once a week, or going even on my good deed once a year, I still could fail… so if I’m trying to be good, be golden, be compassionate, to treat others as I want to be treated all the time, I’m going to succeed sometimes. A lot more times. Maybe even a lot more times than I fail. And if we are all doing that, we are all going to succeed a lot more. And that’s a good thing – maybe even golden! They say living a compassionate life involves, kindness, and understanding, empathy, and here’s one you might not have thought of, curiousity. Yes, we need to be curious about our own life, about the lives of others. So I will try to be kind. And yes, I’m curious, so very curious to see how this all works out. I’m curious how others can think so differently from me. I’m curious to see how I can be so different from them. How we can create and survive and question and wonder, and stumble, and fall, and fail, fail so badly, and still survive? I’m so curious about how we do that. Because I’ve seen us do that. You and me. We have survived and thrived and failed and succeeded and cried and laughed and laughed and laughed. Isn’t that curious? Isn’t that wonderful? Makes me want more. I want more kindness. More compassion. I want us all to be golden. Not just once a day. I am curious and I am hopeful. I have to be. We all have to be. I can’t bear that we could be people who hate each other. Turn on each other. We are not alone. We are not together once a day, or when we feel like it. We are in this together. All the time. We are one race. The human race. Period. Period. There is no “other.” So look around. Is this the way we want to be treated? Is this polished? Can we be golden? I hope so. I know I am flawed. So flawed. Forgive me for that. (And I will forgive you, because that’s the deal, isn’t it?) So tonight we try. We’re in this together, all the time. And we try again tomorrow. And we celebrate our successes. Oh, how I want to celebrate with you. So today, tonight, and tomorrow then. And the one after that too. Golden.