Jodi Hills

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

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I don’t recall ever saying “It’s already Friday.” In grade school, each day lumbered into the next, being held up by spelling tests and times tables, bed times, and “but it’s a school night.” When Friday finally rang its last bell of the week, we raced out the doors, jackets dragging, expectations rising!

Friday nights meant a sporting event. Winter meant basketball. As a grade schooler, to watch the high school boys play was no less extraordinary than a professional team on the television. It was the first time I saw the inside of Jefferson Senior High. The long hallway smelled of popcorn and sugar. Kids my age were racing the terrazzo floors, daring their futures to catch them. The open gym doors wafted the scent of sweat and possibility across from the band room where they practiced our fight song. The wooden bleachers filled. Fathers pointed out sons. Mothers traced the stands for wandering youth. The town came together in red and black, and said, for these few hours, we are the same. We are one. Not divided by neighborhood. Not separated by wealth or religion. We were cardinals. MIGHTY, mighty cardinals – we sang. Together. We won and we lost. As one. 

I don’t remember exactly when the days began speeding, one into the next, when the future accepted our challenge and raced beside and beyond…when we all started to say, “It’s already Friday.” But it happened. Without our collective permission, the halls of Jefferson Senior high got smaller and smaller, and then one day, they simply had to tear it down. 

So why can I still hear the music? A country away? This morning, Glen Miller plays “In the mood” on the radio, and my heart is so happy, because the “halls” are filled and the band is saying, it’s only half-time…there’s so much more to play! Every chance remains. I am a part of something, still — forever. And hope remains…MIGHTY!

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Being a cardinal.

We never imagined ourselves as the toughest. We were birds. We played other schools that were tigers, bears, bison, wolves, eagles even… And when I say we played, we really did play. We had fun. I’m not certain if that’s why everyone joined, but I think so. And we were proud to be cardinals. Lovely red birds who played in the afternoons. No one was ever really threatened or intimidated by us, the cardinal girls, but still in the song we sang on the bus, we deemed ourselves mighty — “We are the cardinals, mighty, mighty cardinals, everywhere we go – oh, people wanna know- oh, who we are – so we tell ‘em… (and repeat).

And I think mighty be the exact right word here. Sure, we competed. We even won sometimes. But there was so much more. We did everything together. Dressed together. Hoped together. Sang together. Won and lost. Even cried sometimes. All together. And those years in school, when hope was really all I had — to do it together, was everything. And maybe only a couple of girls knew my story, but it didn’t matter. I don’t think we needed details. They didn’t seem to. I was part of something, and I, we, knew it was way more important than being the best – it was about wanting the best for each other. Being a part of something bigger than ourselves — I guess that, by my definition is mighty.

We were on the radio yesterday. Telling our story. What a delight! How did we fit together? How did we fit in this town? It felt like red and black joy. I was, again, a dancing cardinal!

It’s human nature I suppose to want to know all the details. But when you are welcomed, just for being you, brought into the colors without judgement, oh, what a feeling! People who will laugh with you. Ride with you. Win and lose with you, and still find a reason to sing — surround yourself with these people — people filled with hope, friendship and love — this is one mighty team! Everywhere I go-oh, I want people to know-oh, Yes, I am a cardinal…


Cardinal on my sleeve.

We sang a cheer in high school –

“We are the cardinals!

Mighty, mighty cardinals!

Everywhere we go – oh,

people wanna know – oh,

who we are,so we tell ’em…

We are the cardinals… (and repeat and repeat)

I never thought about it then, really, but what a lesson. I’m not sure that people often describe cardinals as mighty, but we did. And why not? It was our decision after all. We were cardinals. That was the mascot we were given. We could choose to wear it proudly, or sink behind someone else’s fragile truth.

So the black and red became a symbol of strength to us. A symbol of celebration in victory. A symbol of perseverance in loss. And we were nothing, if not mighty!

You get to decide what makes you strong. You get to decide who you are. Stand up in the colors you were given, and the colors you create. Even with the most fragile of wings, you can choose to be mighty!

I paint the birds again and again. They are my heart. My fragile, but ever-winged, mighty heart! The heart I wear proudly on sleeve, and in song, because I still think, maybe, you just “might wanna know – oh…”