Blessed to be Broken

God's not finished with me yet!

Hand Salute

I found a old folder filled with a bunch of “journal entries” from an English college class I took back in 2001. I was still in the military and this class happened over lunch time. I really enjoyed the class. It was fun, interesting and I really liked the professor.

Every time class met, we had to turn in, what our professor called journal entries. It didn’t matter how long the entries were or what the subject matter was and best part, they weren’t graded.

If she liked your journal entry, she’d ask if she could keep a copy as an example she’d read to future classes.

I was honored she chose one of mine. So, I thought I’d share it with you all. I guess she found the entry funny and “superb”! At least, I think that’s the word she wrote. It’s a little hard to make out, but let’s just say that’s what she wrote. HA!

I’m going to type it out just as it appears on the original.

The paper is dated 16 Jan 2001 and the subject is simply titled: Salute

“I watched a show on television the other evening and caught myself scrutinizing the hand salute the police officers offered up in honor to one of their dearly departed. I can’t help but cringe whenever I see an improper salute.

I gained the right to do so, by making so many mistakes while learning the hand salute at Basic Military Training.

Staff Sergeant Garcia, an assistant Technical Instructor for our flight was given the dubious task to turn our limp spaghetti wrists into rigid straight arrows. Sergeant Garcia demonstrated the hand salute with clean-cut preciseness and then issued his instructions; knock on the closed door once, open the door, step inside, close the door, take 2 steps forward, stand at attention and render the perfect hand salute while stating “Airman Kettell reports as ordered.”

Simple enough was the phrase that came to mind, why any idiot could do that. Well, it embarrasses me to say, it took this idiot a total of 4 times going through the “simple” instructions.

For the life of me, I could not make my wrist into a straight line. It felt like I was doing the correct motion, but it wasn’t until Sergeant Garcia got up from his chair, cursing under his breath, grabbed my hand, and tried unsuccessfully for several seconds to bend my wrist into the correct position.

It seems, my arm was straight, but my wrist was bent at a 90-degree angle. He finally managed to straighten my wrist, but then my thumb decided to misbehave by taking on an angle all of it’s own.

He felt the only way to fix that was to have me bring my arm back down and carefully study his entire hand, which he had placed flat on the desk. He then decided it was best I do the same.

So, I placed my hand flat on the desk. I was then instructed to slowly bring my hand to the corner of my eyebrow, careful not to move a single tendon out of place.

Needless to say, I still screwed it up. My wrist went right back to the 90-degree angle and worse yet, my thumb decided to keep it’s awkward angle. It was very uncomfortable. I decided saluting was stupid.

Sergeant Garcia’s face looked a lot like my disfigured wrist and this time he stood up and imitated my hand salute, all the while screaming “does this look right to you!”

It was all I could do, not to bust out laughing. Knowing full well, I could not do that, I instead made some guttural sound and was asked to leave and stand at the end of the line until I could take this exercise seriously.

So, head hung low, cursing under my breath, I went to the end of the line.

It was my turn again, and this time, my hand actually was in the correct position, but now my head cocked to the side in order to meet the salute. This was not acceptable.

Once again, Sergeant Garcia stood up and imitated my salute and once again I had to keep from laughing.

I was given one more opportunity to render the perfect hand salute. I cleared my head, I begged my hand to stay straight and I did not move my head. It was not a perfect salute, but it was at least acceptable.

He then instructed me to hold the salute, walk into the bathroom, look in the mirror and memorize how my arm felt, which at this point was on fire, and never, ever, let him see me insult the salute as I had previously done. ” The End

It’s amazing how reading through this story makes it seem like it was just yesterday it happened. But that was many years ago. I can still visualize Sergeant Garcia’s face. He was so frustrated. I don’t know why I thought it was funny, but for whatever reason, it got me through it.

Sometimes in the face of frustration, laughter is the best relief. Maybe if we all laughed a little more instead of berating ourselves, we’d enjoy this one life we’ve been given more.

I know these days I’m far more serious than I like to be. Laughing is crucial to my well being. Maybe yours too?

So, if you have a chance to laugh, I hope you do. I’ll leave you with this quote:

Laughter is the best medicine in the world. A day without laughter is a day wasted. Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.

And who couldn’t use a little “cheap medicine” right about now?

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Uncontrollable Laughter

It took me a long time to get my Associates degree. I wasn’t a fan of schooling. I got bored easily, and my mind more often than not, drifted to places I’d much rather be. Daydreamer. Yeah, I’m ok, with that label.

In grade school I was the girl in the corner because I talked too much. I don’t ever remember a teacher asking me why I was disruptive. I wonder if I would have told them you didn’t speak much in my house. That school was the only place I felt I got to be “me.” Funny, they thought placement in a corner could keep me quiet.

In High School one of my favorite classes was typing class. The teacher would call out, A,S,D,F,J,K,L,semma (for semi-colon), over and over, for our finger placement on the keys. As I sit down at the computer keyboard, I still think about this. When my fingers are placed incorrectly, words are jumbled and off their mark.

We had assignments in typing class. I would get them done and then type up stories about my best friend and her boyfriend. I titled all the stories “As The Stomach Turns.” I got the title from the Carol Burnett show. Those particular skits made fun of soap operas. If you’re a soap opera fan, you may recall the show, “As The World Turns.”

I would giggle and smile at the overly dramatic stories of my beloved friend and her love life as I typed them out. You may understand if you’ve ever been caught smiling at your smart phone as you received or typed out a text to someone. My bestie would read the stories and we’d both laugh at the ridiculousness of them. It was a highlight of our day.

Daily laughter was crucial to my existence. Laughter didn’t come so easily in the home where I grew up. But when we did laugh, we really laughed. The kind of laughing where your stomach and cheeks hurt.

Back to my degree. When you enter the military you have the opportunity to go to college. For many years, I couldn’t be bothered. I thought we had enough “schooling” with learning how to do our jobs and become great leaders. But, if you wanted to progress in rank, having that coveted piece of paper proving you were educated was required.

Thankfully this is where the Community College of the Air Force came into play. So many of the courses you took for your military job could be counted as credit to your degree. Sa-weet!

Two of the last classes I needed for my 20 year degree was algebra and public speaking. Yes, it took me 20 years to get my degree. But, that’s not the point. This is about the last 2 classes and more pointedly the public speaking class.

If you stay in the military long enough, you’re going to have to get up in front of folks and either recite something, teach something, or commend someone.

Public speaking can be scary. My legs shook and wobbled and it took all I could do to remain upright. My voice sounded crackly, my throat got dry, and let’s throw shaky hands in the mix. Is it any wonder that one of the last classes I took was public speaking?

When it came time to sign up for that dreaded public speaking class I was elated to find there was a condensed summer course. Score!

I have to admit I totally loved the class. It was so much fun. All the outwardly things I spoke about earlier still happened, but I wasn’t alone. My fellow students understood what I was feeling. Then this happened.

We were given a simple tongue twister to recite. Simple enough. When it was my turn, I got up from my seat, walked to the podium, and confidently started to recite what was in my hand. I think I was about 5 words into it, when I started laughing uncontrollably. Seriously, the more I tried to stop laughing, I laughed even more. I looked at the professor, and she was not amused.

To make matters worse, I looked at 2 of my friends in the class and the look on their faces made me laugh even harder. Eventually, the whole class was laughing. Not my teacher. She still was not amused.

I decided to turn my back to the class. After a minute or what seemed like a lifetime, I finally regained my composure. I took a deep breath, turned around, opened my mouth to speak only to have laughter come pouring forth…again. The class for whatever reason was still just as amused as I was, and joined me. I wonder if their stomach and cheeks hurt as much as mine did?

In an effort to get this madness under control I once again turned my back on my audience. I regained my composure, and I turned around. I looked at my professor’s face, and I finally got the assignment over with. I’ve never had anything like this happen before, and I’ve never had anything happen like that again. To this day, I have no clue why it happened.

If I had to venture a guess, God either knew I needed a good laugh, or someone in the class did, or maybe we all just needed a good belly laugh. I can’t say for sure if the class was laughing with me or at me. Maybe it was both. Either way, the memory of it brings a silly smile to my face.

Life can get super serious. Make sure you take time to be silly. Laugh! It’s good for you. We’ve all been through a lot lately. Too much of any emotion will leave us unbalanced.

Is laughing a cure-all? Probably not, but it has a lot of benefits. I’ll leave you with a question.

When was the last time you laughed…really laughed?


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