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Saturday, August 30, 2014



By Heidi Johnson-Wright

I’ve been an employer since I was 17 when I hired my first personal care attendant. In the intervening time – more years than I care to mention – I’ve had some very interesting experiences. And I’ve certainly learned a lot about human behavior.

Like anyone with a disability, I’ve had my share of otherwise good attendants who were chronically late. Most memorable was a quiet little mouseburger who worked for me my first year of law school. She compulsively hit her snooze alarm, often coming darn close to making me miss my morning van ride to class. When I’d finally had my fill of unnecessary stress and her excuses, I insisted she put her clock radio across the room from her bed. She looked at me as if I’d decoded the Rosetta Stone, such was her astonishment at my solution.

Many of my PCAs were young ladies, often allied med students. I typically found college kids to be energetic and motivated. They showed enthusiasm for the job, and I loved hearing their crazy stories about whack roommates and parties with techno records and plastic trash cans filled with hairy buffalo. But students can be flighty and short-sighted. I had several come on strong at first, then quickly lose enthusiasm. They decided a couple weeks in that they’d prefer waitressing, and I had to push the re-set button on the attendant search.

Eventually, I changed my approach and started seeking grown-ups. I figured they’d be more grounded and responsible. Some were; others, not so much. I hired one older lady who, after two visits, said she wanted to “job share” the position with her friend. She brought the other woman – unannounced – with her to my house and started right in on a hard sell. It seems her friend’s primary qualification was her other job as a maid for Sissi Fleitas, the buxom Spanish language TV personality. Did she think hand-laundering Sissi’s generously-sized brassieres was equivalent to showering a gimp girl?

I understand that attendants are people, too. They’ve got family problems, car trouble, migraines and bunions. I try to be flexible and understanding, but I draw the line at crazy. And I never cease to be amazed at how crazies can hold it together during a 30-minute interview, then let it all hang out once they get hired.

I had one nut job who -- five minutes into her first shift – burst forth with a torrent of religious zealotry. She quizzed me about my personal beliefs and expounded on how the artwork in my home was demonic and dangerous. I tried to stick to innocuous topics like the weather only to be told that even overcast days felt sunny to those in the Lord’s bosom. The last straw came when, while shaving my legs, God Girl caressed my shins and inquired if I wanted to “be restored.” I paid her right then and there, and told her never to return.

Looking back, I wish I’d replied: “I am restored, you knucklehead. Six months ago I was a double amputee!”

Friday, August 15, 2014




By Heidi Johnson-Wright

I was born at the tail end of the Baby Boom, the twenty-year period of post-World War II American prosperity. In every sense of the term, I’m a boomer. In birth year, sensibilities and spirit. If you dig what I’m saying, then let me hear you say “right on!”

  • When I hear the word “news,” my first thought (before I remember what year it is) is Cronkite or Chancellor or Reasoner -- not Twitter.
  • My personal stamp of approval is always given with the word “cool.” “Awesome” is a descriptor of the powers of a supreme being.
  • The drama of the Olympics will forever be associated in my mind with Cold War rivalries – and LeRoy Neiman paintings.
  • If you watch America’s Got Talent and you’ve never heard of The Gong Show, then our generation gap rivals the Grand Canyon.
  • Jeans that don’t flare at the bottom are called “straight leg,” not “skinny.”
  • Classic rock is simply rock.
  • Watergate and Wacky Packs profoundly shaped the person I am today.
  • When I turn on the TV, I sometimes forget – for an instant – that there are more than three major networks and a couple of cheesy UHF stations.
  • I know all the words to Coke’s “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” and the Burger King jingle that starts “Two hundred million people…”
  • I treasured the moon rover toy I got from a box of Cheerios, I loved the chemical taste of chocolate fudge Space Food Sticks and I remember where I was when Sky Lab fell.
  • Being a mall rat meant checking out the pet rocks, posters and naughty board games at Spencer Gifts, buying 45s at Record & Tape Outlet and browsing the sexy dresses at Merry-Go-Round.
  • I still believe that the U.S. will be going metric in 1980.
  • Mood rings, macramé owls and MOR radio – need I say more? 

Monday, August 11, 2014



By Heidi Johnson-Wright

You might call me a cripple or a freak.  Though if you’re going to use epithets, I’d prefer “gimp girl.”

It’s pejorative. But since I both struggle to walk and have ovaries, it’s true.  Not “True” as in the Spandau Ballet song, but “true” as in truth. The kind of truth that -- if you own it -- will set you free. 

I’m ready to own my particular truth. I’m ready to be set free.

Oh, wait a minute. Perhaps you’re thinking I need to be set free because I’m a prisoner in my own body. I can’t water ski or kick box, so my life is devoid of all meaning. May I point out that such a thought stems from the assumption that being able-bodied is always superior to being disabled? That’s a very progressive way of thinking, provided you’re living in the Middle Ages.

OK, that was rather bitchy of me. Sorry. Let me back up and clarify a few things. I’ll try to be more polite.

I don’t want to be anyone’s inspiration. Don’t pat me on the head or gaze at me with pity.

And for heaven’s sake, if you pass me on the street, don’t hand me dollar bills. (I’m not a stripper.)

I don’t exist on this planet primarily to suffer, and my suffering isn’t about making you feel more content with your own situation. None of this “I felt sad because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet” nonsense.

If you’re still expecting heart-warming tales about a chick who triumphed over a terrible disease and grew up determined to find a cure, you’ve stumbled upon the wrong blog. (Forget medical research. I wanted to grow up to be Joan Jett.)
But if you seek out things provocative, edgy and profane, welcome to EarthBound TomBoy.

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