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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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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Leap of faith.

It’s easy to put conditions on everything. “If the sun shines today, I’ll be happy.” “If this photo gets a lot of ‘likes’ I’ll be happy.” “If I get this done…” “If she tells me this…” “If he would just…” So many conditions. And I’m guilty of it too. We all want certain things. Need certain things. But what I want to do, what I’m trying to do, is start from a place of happiness. Start from a place of gratitude. Every morning. And then let the conditions fall away. Take away my ifs and just start being. Looking only inwardly. Not comparing my life, but living my life. The only competition should be with oneself. Am I living my best life?

When I visited the Brooklyn school district, I asked each young student what they were good at. They unapologetically told me of their gifts. Not bragging, but claiming their attributes. They were young enough to enjoy the gifts. I remember feeling the same. I was 5 or 6 when I began to paint. When I began to write. Not needing any encouragement. No social media. No pressure. I would go into my bedroom and color. Paint. Draw. Write. It was me. That’s what I cling to. What I believe in. The doing. The being. It’s a good day when I enjoy the process. Get the paint on my hands. Get the words on the page. Forever young enough to enjoy the gifts.

I read to the students my story “Leap of faith.” (The story of me daring to take my first real dive off the high tower.) When I was finished, one young man came up to me, and asked a very intelligent question. “What was that really about?” he asked, knowing it was deeper than just the water. “It’s about daring to be yourself.” I replied. He smiled like he knew. “I can do that,” he said. And he ran off to join his class. I know that he can!

“I don’t know if this is going to be the day that my feet will touch the sky…but I am going to climb that tower, and I am going to be scared and I’m going to be happy, and with the wind in my hair, my heart is going to lead me…and one way or another, I am going to fly!” (from the book, Leap of faith)

I’ll see you up there!


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Vision of youth.

We were visiting them in the US. She was maybe 5 or 6. We were playing a game at the table, and I told her (Layne), that I had to go pee-pee. Without pause she said, “Well, we use the toilet.”
I’m still laughing. It was so delightfully simple. So easy. So direct. But I guess, things don’t always have to be so difficult. Layne saw a need and filled it — that simple.


Maybe if we all kept that perspective, we could live a little easier. A little lighter. It was Picasso who said, “All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”


To be an artist is all about seeing. Whether you are a painter, a photographer, a dancer (any human really)… you have to see it, very clearly see yourself doing it, creating it. Being it. Living it with the pure vision of youth.


I painted Layne, when she was an artist – a beautiful girl, with the clearest of vision. I hope she hangs on to it, sees the world in this way — easily, clearly, with all the color and laughter it can bring!


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Flung.

She ran up to me in the checkout line in Menards with the exuberance of an airport pick-up. (If you’re old enough to remember when you could meet someone at their gate and greet them as they got off the plane and entered back into your world.) Arms flung around each other as if no time had passed, or perhaps to gather in all the time that had. Either way, it worked. I was wrapped and cuddled by this girl of my schools days, this bundle of youth, this Jenny, and it was delightful!

It was only a few minutes. She needed to return to all the others wanting to “save big money…” and I needed to become an adult again. But what a trip. A trip back to high school halls filled with laughter and hope and running. A trip to the colors of red and black uniforms – cheering, competing, becoming…


Moments. Gifts. So easily given. Without cost. Forever priceless. Today is another chance to give. To receive. I greet the morning with arms flung! Thank you, Jenny!


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No slip of beauty


I don’t know if she was born with it. Maybe all kids have it, if given the freedom. But she has something – some may call it confidence, or a lack of shame. Maybe it’s a mixture of both, combined with the essence of youth.


She isn’t afraid to try anything. And she isn’t afraid to fail. In fact, she doesn’t see it as failure. She can finish a painting that some may see as juvenile, or crude, but she thinks, “Voila!” – and couldn’t be more proud. She can put on a swimsuit, never giving a thought to her baby fat that still clings around the middle. Not a worry. She’ll even run in her swimsuit – (a nightmare for most of us.). She’ll sing songs with no idea of the lyrics. OUTLOUD! She attempts a new language with no fear of mispronouncing the words – in fact it’s your fault if you don’t understand. She dances. She laughs. She is a super hero!


I don’t what the years will bring. I don’t know what she’ll become. Who she’ll become. I only pray she keeps the tightest hold on this – whatever this is – this confidence, this youth, THIS!


I see it in her, and I can still feel my own. Feel myself flying on my banana seat bike, without boundaries or limitations. Believing! I am so grateful for the reminder she brings. And if she’ll let me, I will help her hold on, hold on with the might of youth, so she’ll never feel the fear that living can bring, the shame in any attempt, the slip of beauty. We need to protect her. Protect THIS! Celebrate THIS! We ARE her, we are THIS!