Jodi Hills

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


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Language of youth.

“That’s where I went to school,” I said as we drove past Washington Elementary. “Do you want me to tell you every time?” I smiled as asking. (It’s a small town. That could easily happen daily.) “Yes,” he said.

Washington Elementary is now a set of condos. Central Junior High – offices. Jefferson Senior High – gone. I still carry the evidence that it was there. In my heart. In my mind. I hope, in my actions.

There is a universal sound of children on a playground. In every country. It doesn’t matter the language, you understand it when you hear it. Let loose from the weight of the classroom, the laughter and excitement explodes into energy. Through unlocked doors into the open air, this collective sound of belonging, growing, building, LIVING. No burden of trying to understand — they just do — understand that this is their time, their joy, and they are free. It is the cartoon language of youth.

I hear it in France. I heard it yesterday in Alex, as we drove by the condos of my education. Maybe we all want to keep it alive. Hear the sound of possibility. So, I tell my husband every time, and we smile. We hear it. No burden of trying to understand, we just do.

I suppose that’s why I write each day. To keep the language of youth alive for all of us. Can you hear it? Oh, please hear it. If, you like, I’ll tell you again tomorrow — because, my friends, this is our time, our joy — and we must LIVE!


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Learning gratitude


 I walked to school with wet hair and a permanent pink hall pass from a forgiving gym teacher. Yes, I walked across the street, not for miles in the snow, this isn’t one of those stories… but in order for it to make sense, I do have to tell you a little about my past. I was having surgery all the time, we lost our home, and our family split completely apart. School was a life raft. School was safe. School was constant. And then it became more… it wasn’t just shelter from the storm… it was where we were building a bigger boat. I say we, because I wasn’t alone. I had teachers, and friends, and cooks and janitors. And they all mattered. Truly. With them I was able to combine letters into phrases of hope that even I could believe. I could take paint and brighten any day. I mixed metaphors with metallics and music and mat ball. Yes, I went with wet hair and sometimes a dampened attitude… perhaps a bit afraid to show how much this place mattered. But oh, how it mattered. It still does. 

When I saw the face of the little girl, Malala, just trying to get an education… fighting for her rights to learn, to laugh, to dance, to set sail… I had to join her. I had to paint her face. I had to listen to her heart. 

I feel so lucky. I could just walk across the street. I had the freedom to learn, to escape, to grow. I was given a chance. We are all so lucky.

That doesn’t mean we are free from difficult times, sadness, anger, hurt, or hard work. We wake up in a land of chance. For those who don’t, we have a responsibility. So please, let us embrace it!

If you are a student, go learn something. Take every opportunity you can. 

Fill yourself with possibility.

If you are a teacher, know, even behind the eye rolls and distracted minds, you are so important. You are leaders and you are builders. And you matter. Build something today… build up someone.

If you are a parent, walk hand in hand through all of it.

If you are a politician, please keep our education a priority.

If you have resources, share them.

If you have a heart and a mind, stretch them…open them.

Everyone deserves a chance. Give one to your neighbor. Give one to yourself.

Malala is teaching us so many things. Today I learn gratitude…again, and for the very first time. Thank you.