October 21, 2017

Seeing the Calm in the Storms

 When one door closes, yeah yeah, I hear ya, another one opens. Some times it may take a while but it will open. What’s the definition of awhile? I don’t know for you, but for me, a few months. You may be tugging on the knob and nothing’s happening but hang in there, it might just mean you’re at the wrong door.
The last door that closed for me was on June 28th of this year. I stepped away from the optical industry that I have known and breathed since 1992. My role as a Licensed Optician in today’s medical world had started to alter my personality and not in a way that I was happy about. I’ve always kept a couple of extra passions in my back pocket, so by July 4th, I had 60 items up for auction on eBay and some cleaning gigs lined up.
For the past few months, the 14 months that I spent in New Orleans volunteering for Hurricane Katrina has been frequently popping up in my mind. Thoughts of how some of the survivors I met were doing and hoping they were still cheering on their great city.
I wonder what happened to the elderly man who lost everything he owned, except for the lawn chair he was sitting in, when I handed him a free home-cooked hot meal. I have told a few of my closest friends that I have not had that day-to-day feeling like you’re really making a difference in the lives of the less fortunate as I felt back then. It’s not that I wish a hurricane on anyone, I just dig life-changing stuff.
In May of this year I visited New Orleans with a dear friend of mine and we played tourists. We kept a non-stop agenda for the few days we were there. The Jazz Festival was amazing and I hung out in the Gospel Tent most of the day. As I people watched, I was reminded that the locals really have a genuine love for their city and what it has to offer. Great music, incredible food, bone chilling music and a laid back swag that you can’t find anywhere else.
To make a full recovery from the devastation that Katrina landed on New Orleans will never happen. You wouldn’t have recognized that though if you had witnessed the determination I saw in those people after the storm. I wish I would have kept a journal during those 14 months I was there, I guess I did but just not on paper. I didn’t know from day-to-day what I would do or who I might meet. Each night I went to bed though, I knew I helped someone, even if only to get a grin or giggle from my jokes about Katrina being a home wrecker that levied assets.
Humor is a wonderful thing to be blessed with. If all else fails, just make yourself laugh. You should practice laughing every single day. No excuses. Fake it til you belly ache it.
For the past two months, the ad that I placed on Craigslist, which was similar to the one I used for Katrina work, has found me several safe, life-changing, organizing gigs. Of course, I couldn’t have done all of the work without the help of my best gig friend, Susan. We are polar opposites but challenge us to do a home project and we are on it. After years of experience in our own different ways, Susan said we should call ourselves, Girls Gone Organized and so it is.
Susan, who has been in the optical industry Monday through Friday for 33 years, is a good sport to play optical on some weekends. She and I helped set up the Dream Center Clinic’s charitable vision program in 2009. Twice a month we would climb aboard a big, orange RV that was remodeled into a mobile eye care clinic. Free eye exams and eyeglasses were provided to the medically underserved residents of North Charleston. Patients would camp out, meaning they would arrive at 5:00 am, since it was first come, first served. Susan and I felt like we were being chased by the paparazzi when we pulled in the parking lot around 10:00 am, which was the time the clinic opened.
Donations began to pour in and the vision clinic has been able to serve thousand of eye care patients. Once again, I experienced those great life-changing feelings of helping others. In the past year, I have not been an active volunteer for the vision clinic. It’s a door that’s partially closed for me to prepare for the next door to open.
During my May trip to New Orleans I visited the New Orleans Dream Center and met with the Executive Director, Diane Amos. Diane gave me a tour and introduced me to medical professionals that were serving patients that day. Something was missing. Out of all the professions that were represented there that day, there were no eye care providers. My wheels were spinning and I had a glimpse of that life-changing feeling.
In December 2001, I made the decision as a business owner to call it quits. For 10 years, I owned and operated an optical franchise with a close friend of mine from high school. Many nights I would leave work and by the end of the night be suffering from double vision. I guess that’s to be expected when your tolerance for alcohol exceeds 12 beers a day. The experience of going belly up had a dual meaning for me. I filed bankruptcy and got sober all within two weeks of closing the business down. Through the years of being in the optical industry I have accrued quite a few eyeglass frames as well as inherited some.
Next month I will be celebrating 50 years on planet earth. It’s just a number to me, possibly the half way mark through life. My grandmother lived to be 101.5 years old so maybe I will do the same. My birthday wish is not complicated. I simply want to be a part of a life-changing vision experience. I want to donate and deliver 1,000 eyeglass frames to the New Orleans Dream Center. I want to stay in New Orleans as long as it takes to help them recruit the optical volunteers and vendors that are needed to share this vision. I promise to write in my journal this time and keep you up to date with the many doors this will open.
Girls Gone Organized
Ginny Johnson, Purge Consoler

Southern Smarts Commitment to Entrepreneurs

It is with great pride we begin this new path here at Southern Smarts. As many of you know the major focus of Southern Smarts is “simple living for simpler times’. Unless one has been living under a rock, we have recognized the economy has been sluggish at best. Millions of people have found their lives changed forever and most look for exciting and innovative ways to recover.  An important segment of society that has been hit particularly hard is the 40-65 year old range. Through Corporate downsizing, and changing opportunities we are finding ourselves in the unique position of reinvention. companies no longer recruit in a traditional way. Older hiring practices have become obsolete. How can a group of educated, hardworking, and sensical potential employees become the work force of the future? How can this group highlight their skills, and share their many talents? Ultimately, how can this important group blow through many superficial barriers, and do what they do best?

This unique group has inspired Southern Smarts to focus on the “New Entrepreneurs”. These folks are taking their lives in new directions by starting new businesses and giving opportunities to themselves and others. It takes courage to switch gears anytime in life, let alone towards midlife. Many of us had planned, focused, and worked hard for many years to reach success and secure our futures, and we can do it again!

In the future, we will highlight people who have become a little older, and a lot wiser. They have faced huge challenges, and transformed them into something personally and economically rewarding.  We would love to hear your stories, and hope you enjoy all we have to share.

Southern Smarts will now be featuring a new Entrepreneur every two weeks that are making a difference and creating new lives for themselves and their communities. We certainly hope their stories will help promote their businesses and give hope to those that are trying to embark on their own path.

We encourage all our readers to please let us know if they or someone they know would like to be featured . We are so excited to be starting this new path and look forward to hearing from all of you. You may visit our FB page and comment or send us a private message regarding a featured entrepreneur. Stay tuned to hear about Stephanie Wade, our first featured entrepreneur.

Have a fantastic Day!

Steven Chaberek, Southern Smarts.