Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas


February 20, 2014

Freedom to exhale

Corsicana — So far as I know, none of my elementary schoolmates made it to the Metropolitan Opera — unless as a member of the audience, usher staff or clean-up crew.

On balance, our highest musical aspirations might have justified our inclusion in church choirs, but without expectation to be chosen for solos. When Christmas pageant time rolled around, we risked minimal embarrassment by shooting for silent roles — perhaps as shepherds.Donning masquerades as camels might best have fit our ability — front or back end — as long as each end knew what the other was doing.

Lest you think our teacher was a buffoon, I hasten to emphasize that the late Betty Jo Rice was more than “up to speed” to handle music instruction for all eight grades. In fact, she was superior in numerous ways, not the least of which was showing us that music fits neatly into our lives long after school bells are silent.

She convinced us that we could — and should — face the day smiling. Surveying the room, she smiled broadly each day, asking if we were ready for our breathing exercise. We were determined to please her, with our breathing if not our singing.

We may have been among the best “breathers” on the planet, taking in big gulps of air, holding ‘em a few seconds, then exhaling on command. I’m here to tell you, we had the breathing part down.

Little did we know at the time that now, some 70 years later, we’ve pretty much given up on singing outside the shower. However, we’re clinging to an exercise regimen, hopeful for another  “inhale” after each “exhale.”  Mrs. Rice might find it hard to believe that in these days, exhaling is the hardest part.

We all have lists of breathtaking challenges, from the communities where we live to the globe which we share. Admittedly, Carter was big in pill production, but many folks today have as many problems as he had pills.

Take the current Winter Olympics as an example. When will all parties concerned — participants, fans, media personnel and Russian hosts—feel free to exhale? Add pilots and flight attendants to the list; surely they have to wonder if someone has slipped a rigged tube of toothpaste onto the plane. (One guy mentioned he’d never previously heard of “Sochi,” and when he did, offered a “Gesundheit”).

As a former higher education administrator, I wonder how many educators today need to take some deep breaths, hold ‘em and then fully exhale.

At the University of Texas, for example, worms are out of the can. What a mish-mash of problems between the governor, regents, chancellor, presidents and coaches, perhaps not in that order.

Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa has had enough, opting to return to his medical career in organ transplants. After all, he’s performed kidney and liver transplants “every three or four weeks” during his five years as chancellor. On my best “chancelloring” days at a much smaller institution, they wouldn’t have thought me capable of transplanting mesquite trees. However, I could exhale with the best of them.

On local levels, stomachs churn on many topics. Consider “bullying,” a problem atop many lists. Some bullies seem committed to ugly tactics for a lifetime. (It wasn’t long ago that the word “bully” was usually followed by “pulpit.”)

We risk boggled minds with daily news accounts of man’s ongoing inhumanity to man. Sometimes it’s more than a body can reasonably bear. (Deliver me from Denmark, where zoo workers have ghoulish ways to dispose of giraffes.)

Only the lions win.

I heard of a third-grader, call him “Wee Willie,” who asked his dad for $5 to take to school the next day. Sensing jagged edges of concern in his son’s request, Mr. Winkle, reached for his wallet, always eager to help out. Pausing, he asked, “What’s it for?”

 “Big Bob the Baddest Bully blabbed that if I don’t bring bucks — five of ‘em — he’s going to bludgeon me to a bloody blob,” Willie answered. The youngster found little comfort in his dad’s response, “No way, son, that’s extortion.”

“Nope,” the third-grader countered, “Big Bob says it’s health care.” (No doubt Mr. Winkle gasped for air, hopeful of being able to exhale before too long).

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. He may be reached by email at His website is Follow him on Twitter: @donnewbury.


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