STEVE INSKEEP, host:
On Wednesdays, our business report focuses on the workplace, and this morning, we're going to Take Two. That's our continuing series on people reinventing themselves through their work. And here to introduce a trio of such people this morning, a trio from Kansas City, is NPR senior correspondent Ketzel Levine.
KETZEL LEVINE reporting:
You guys ready?
Metzger Family: (In unison) OK.
Dr. JOHN METZGER: I'm John Metzger.
Mrs. JEAN METZGER: And I'm Jean Netzger.
Ms. CAROLINE JOHNSON: And I'm Caroline Johnson.
Dr. METZGER: I'm the daddy.
Mrs. METZGER: He's the doctor daddy. I'm the doctor's wife.
LEVINE: And Caroline Johnson is their new business partner--oh, and their daughter.
Ms. JOHNSON: Once in a while, I think, `Oh, boy, what did I get into?'
LEVINE: An adventure that evidently has the three of them nearly slap-happy at the chance of working together to pursue a shared passion. It all began with John Metzger's optometry practice, where he saw dozens and dozens of children who were plenty smart but doing miserably at school. The stories he brought home to his wife, Jean, formerly an elementary school teacher, broke her heart. So she went looking for a solution, and through the American Optometry Association, discovered vision therapy. Over the last five years, the couple have become zealous for this form of behavioral optometry, used to strengthen they eye-brain connection, and have since helped kids who couldn't bear reading begin to hunger for books.
(Soundbite of a metronome)
ZACH FARR(ph) (Vision Therapy Patient): S, B, L...
LEVINE: What you're listening to is no mean trick. Teen-ager Zach Farr, who suffered brain injuries as a child, is learning to both focus and multitask. In this exercise, he is reading from an eye chart from left to right, while moving two flashlights, one in each hand, up and down and doing all this while keeping time with a metronome set by his therapist, Jean Metzger.
FARR: ...E, G, K...
Mrs. METZGER: Great. I'm going to have you stop there and put your patch on your other eye. That was awesome.
Dr. METZGER: Every time we see a child that succeeds now, it's just such a blessing to us.
LEVINE: But vision therapy has been just a small piece of John Metzger's optometry practice, where he's been doing eye exams and fitting glasses for 28 years. He was pretty well dug in until his Web-designer daughter called from the eye of a brainstorm, suggesting her parents sell their home and practice in Hiawatha, Kansas, join her a hundred miles away and together, launch a full-time vision therapy business.
Dr. METZGER: After you're pushing 60, you think you're supposed to be starting to settle down in your life, but when Caroline called, my heart just started vibrating on the same frequency as Caroline's, and we didn't even blink and eye. We just knew it was right.
LEVINE: So did everybody sleep that night, after the phone call?
Ms. JOHNSON: I didn't.
LEVINE: With good reason. Caroline Johnson, disenchanted with the tech industry, was about to live the leap. The day she called her folks, she'd been attending a self-help workshop hoping to imagine her way into a new business, and instead realized that what she did was second to who she did it with.
Ms. JOHNSON: You know, like it's the best team I could ever dream to have.
LEVINE: Well, I can't help but wonder what kind of relationship the three of you had when you were, say, 15. What do you remember?
Ms. JOHNSON: Maybe you don't want to ask.
Mrs. METZGER: Actually, I think it's pretty typical.
Ms. JOHNSON: Pretty typically a nightmare.
Dr. METZGER: I can remember one time a tearful confrontation in Caroline's bedroom, and she was saying to us, `I'm never coming back to this town. I'm...'
Mrs. METZGER: `Can't wait to leave home.
Dr. METZGER: `Can't wait to leave home,' and then we all grew up a little bit.
LEVINE: John Metzger, Jean Metzger and their daughter, Caroline Johnson, are a month away from opening their vision therapy practice in Lenexa, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. Nobody seems too worried about money. In fact, the good doctor thinks this new practice will be more lucrative than his old one.
Which leaves one last question, an issue big enough to stop us lesser mortals in our tracks: How, as a family in business, will these three adults maintain boundaries while resolving professional conflicts? Caroline Johnson isn't worried.
Ms. JOHNSON: I think us having a clear mission in common makes it pretty easy not to sweat the stuff that doesn't really matter.
LEVINE: Ketzel Levine, NPR News.
INSKEEP: You can find links to information about vision therapy at npr.org, where you can also e-mail us your own story of career change.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
LINDA WERTHEIMER (Host): And I'm Linda Wertheimer.