Jodi Hills

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


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Making heirlooms.

I looked it up, to see the exact definition —. Heirloom: a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.


I don’t suppose we’ve ever been a family of objects, but I’don’t feel badly about that. Because we do have valuables. My grandparents, being farmers, grew something every year. Not for display. But for the growth. The life. And the stories that remain, even after every truck and tractor, every tool, had been auctioned off, the stories remain. And I hear them. I write them. And I pass them on – these heirlooms.

Since I can remember, I have only seen my brother in overalls. He is not a farmer. I’m sure if you asked him, he would say for the comfort, the pockets, easier to work in… and those reasons are probably all true. But it occurred to me that maybe he is creating his own heirlooms. Just as I write the stories, he puts on my grandfather’s wardrobe, and gives his own grandchildren an image of the past. An image that they certainly will carry with them forever. Their Grandpa Tom wore overalls.


We get to decide what is valuable in this life. What is important to us. For me, it has always come down to the human connection. Never to be displayed on shelves, but certainly displayed daily, in hands reaching out, arms pulling in, love grown, lives shared.


Some days, as I type, I wonder, is it really important, to write these words? And then you respond with memories of your own. Share your stories — your heirlooms — and grandparents are kept alive, traditions, schools, hometowns… and I smile and know it is valuable — making these daily heirlooms.


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Put me in, coach.

I played summer softball when I was a young girl — and I emphasize the word “played” here. We did keep score, but I can’t say that it really felt like we were competing. We were playing with our friends. There was something called “the ten run rule” — if your team was behind by ten runs after a certain inning, they just called the game, assuming you had no chance of winning. (A rule most certainly created by adults. We would have played forever.) And what I most appreciate about these times, times when they enforced this rule, it always came as a complete shock! I, we, never dreamed that we didn’t have a chance. We always thought we had a chance. We thought surely we should be allowed to try, to keep playing.

The confidence of youth! Had I known there was a chance it could slip away, I would have guarded it for the treasure that it was. I work on it now daily — rebuilding this confidence. Because what a joy!  To step up to the plate, without fear of the score, or the outcome!  To just play. To just live!  

I was in college when John Fogerty’s song, Centerfield, was released. It became a theme song for my mom. 

“Oh, put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today;Put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today;
Look at me, I can be Centerfield.”

I’m not sure everyone understood the song to the depths that she did. She had spent years rebuilding her life. Rebuilding her confidence. And this song, told her she was ready. And oh how she sang!  

The song begins, “Well, beat the drum and hold the phone – the sun came out today! We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.” I look out the morning window and smile. There IS new grass on the field! And I, we, have the chance to play – forever!


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There used to be a ballpark.

I wonder if the birds realize how much things have changed. Do they fly over and think, “Wow, they are really packing the houses in!”? Are their favorite trees still there? Do they move their nests from year to year?


We were driving down Van Dyke Road yesterday. The first road I remember. The first road my feet touched. Probably my knees. My bike tires. But for the sign with its name, it was almost unrecognizable. Every empty lot that we ran around, cut across, kicked balls, and chased each other in, every lot was filled. House after house.

Frank Sinatra sang, “There used to be a ballpark”:


And there used to be a ballpark
Where the field was warm and green.
And the people played their crazy game
With a joy I’d never seen.

We went to see the Nortons – anchors of our former VanDyke Road neighborhood. We laughed and hugged, with the joy I remember, the joy that still lives on, maybe not on the same road, but always in the path of my heart.
The birds are still singing, because they know where to look. Up. Always up. Sitting in the Norton house our spirits were forever young, forever “warm and green.”


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Slugger.

He was an older man in the church we attended. If I did know his name, I don’t remember it now. But I remember him. I remember his voice. He always greeted me with, “Hey, Slugger!”

I was just a young girl. I threw like a girl. I hit like a girl. And I was proud of it. I loved it. The sport was fun, but I think it was more the sun. The freedom of summer. The belonging with the girls. I suppose it was the first time I belonged to something bigger than myself.

When my parents divorced, it seemed this church decided to break up with us as well. I didn’t understand. My mother didn’t understand. It was subtle at first. Doors dropped in front of us. Coffees cancelled after services. We didn’t belong anymore. In a place where all should be welcomed, we were forgotten, all but for this one voice. This old man, who still saw me. Still called me by my heart. Still recognized the strength inside me. Didn’t see me as broken, but a fighter, possibly even a winner. Those two words, “Hey, Slugger!” — the most Christian words I ever heard.

Yesterday, we went to the home of the Louisville Slugger. I didn’t buy a bat. I didn’t need one. I know who I am. I have faith. And I am strong.

I want to be a voice that gives you hope, gives you strength. You can do this! We can do this! I believe it! C’mon team!