Frequent Flyer 

Being on a plane every week makes it very easy to spot the nervous flyers. Honestly, I enjoy watching them. My personal favorites are the people that grab the armrest (and/or your actual arm) with the slightest hint of turbulence, and those that mutter a quick prayer under their breath with every noticeable change in altitude as we takeoff and land. 

It’s nothing to be embarrassed of, I totally get it. We’ve all seen Flight. You’re putting your life in someone else’s hands, and if things go bad there’s no guarantee the pilot will have Denzel’s plane landing ability. However, what makes me smile through my encounters with these passengers isn’t their obvious discomfort (I’m not that mean). It’s the thought that despite their uneasiness, they got on a plane anyways.

Observing people face their fears pretty publicly makes me reflect on where I could be now if I chose to do the same earlier in life. There were many times when I failed to take on a challenge, or took a more “comfortable” route, because of my own anxieties. Looking back now, I truthfully don’t know how those situations could have gone, but at the time I let the risk, uncomfortableness, and uncertainty outweigh the potential reward.

There’s a saying that “a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” It’s true, I’ve lived it. That will never be the case again. I’ve made the decision that the temporary sting of rejection and failure is not nearly as bad as the feeling you carry in the pit of your stomach while living with regret. 

We all have goals in life – in the case of the nervous guy next to me, a destination – and we all have something pushing us towards inaction. Your life can move down a completely different path in the slightest, but (often deceptively) crucial, moment. Once it’s gone there’s no guarantee of another… So what will do you do in this moment? Take the flight or watch the other planes from the safety of the ground? 



When I was little I was scared of storms. Little rain showers, thunderstorms, tornados, you name it – I hated them all. I never felt safe. It didn’t matter where I was, I constantly worried about what could happen to us when severe storms would hit our area. My Mom, on the other hand, was never scared of bad weather. While I was busy hiding away, you could always catch her looking out a window, somewhat mesmerized by everything happening outside.

One day, a smaller thunderstorm was starting to clear up and my Mom was standing at the front door. My (ironically) favorite smell of spring rain was in the air as the winds began to turn into a nice breeze and the sun moved out from behind the clouds. The only thing separating us from the rain was the screen door to our porch, but hugging her made me feel safe. Without taking her eyes off of what was happening outside she quietly said to me, “You know… there is no need to be afraid of storms. God is in control of the sunshine and the blue skies, but also the clouds and the rain. They may be scary and loud, but He is always there. Look Loni… Remember how beautiful everything is when the sun comes back out?”

I’ve always wondered if that was God’s way of foreshadowing. Or simply the gift of prophetic wisdom? Maybe He simply spoke through her… I don’t know. But what I do know is that it was the single most important lesson I needed to learn from the exact person that the biggest storm I would face was centered around. And, seeing as I would cry outside the bathroom if she took too long, I don’t think anyone thought I’d be able to recover from it…

Losing my Mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with, yes. I think about her every day. I’ve written down everything I can remeber about her and our interactions multiple times by now. I’m still so easily overtaken by nostalgia, especially when people mistake me for her (to the point that I freaked out a family friend at the movie theater back home this winter), or someone tells me I’ve somehow picked up another one of her quirks that I honestly didn’t even know about. And, I pray for my salvation in hopes that one day our souls meet again so much, that I don’t even think there are enough angels in heaven to help receive my messages… But, despite the fact that I can’t say I’ll ever “move on”, I’ve matured in my outlook on the situation. 

This is the first time I’ve publicly shared this story with anyone. Probably because it’s taken me a long time to really embrace her lesson on storms. Sometimes I do still get so caught up being frustrated that I can’t call her to ask what to do, or tell her about some unimportant thing I saw, or one day completely disagree about what style wedding dress I should wear, that I can forget to take a second look at the lessons I learned from her years ago (before I fully understood them) for the answers I need now.

I understand now that we live in a broken, cursed world where bad things happen to some of the best people and there is nothing anyone can do about it. That storms are inevitable, but I shouldn’t be afraid of their potential. That I simply can’t live life worried about things that God has control over. And that sometimes I need to remind myself of the beauty around me.

You know how much I love the sunshine, but I’m happy to say that I am no longer afraid of storms, Mommy. Continue to watch over me. I love and miss you more than anyone could understand. – Love, Loni Monster

In Loving Memory of Y.D.S.S. 

It’s Not Much

I wonder where everyone is going. Who they’re traveling to go see. What their lives are like. What they’re going through. Maybe we’re not that different. Maybe we are as different as we think. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own world and forget everyone around us is a person too. They have good days and bad days. They have strengths and weaknesses. They have feelings.

Sometimes I forget I am a normal person too. When I’m in an airport I have on my consultant mask… which is basically (and unfortunately) a self absorbed robot. Always somewhat in a hurry.  Too “important” to wait in lines with those who don’t have status. Gaining more hotel points and airline miles by the minute than are ever necessary in life, yet slightly annoyed by even the slightest hiccup in my travel day… like a delayed flight, or the man who doesn’t know he can keep his shoes on in the Pre-Check line, or the woman who stands in the middle of the terminal hallway obviously very lost.

I think that’s why we spend so much time judging, hating, and fearing people we don’t know. We forget they are people with feelings just like ours. They can be happy, or sad, or anxious, or annoyed like we do… But most importantly we forget that we aren’t perfect and we’re not more important than anyone else. All we really know is our life. Who knows what kind of person we would be with the opportunities they had, their skin color, or their experiences. Do we really have a reason to be anything other than kind?

A lady reminded me of this the last time I was on a flight leaving out of this gate (which was also very delayed like today). She tapped me on the arm while I was waiting in line at a coffee shop and told me my order was paid for. I quickly regurgitated my go-to order to the barista and followed after her to say thank you. Her response was simple, “You’re welcome, it’s not much.” And, as soon as her coffee was ready, she not only walked away, but back out of my life forever. So, why did she do it? Maybe I looked upset, or maybe I just was another woman alone in an airport later in the evening. I’m not sure. But, does it really matter? Did she need a reason to show love for someone she didn’t even know?

She was right though, it wasn’t much, but it went a long way. And now someone who typically wouldn’t care, thinks more about the thousands of people she sees in the busy terminals she frequents… giving a smile, or a compliment, or a helping hand. It’s not much, but no matter where everyone is going, who they’re traveling to go see, what their lives are like, what they’re going through, how different or similar we may be, I do know that kindness feels the same for everybody and we can always use a little bit of it.  

– Loni

Selective Silence

March 20 2003

Well we went to war with Iraq yesterday night. And I fell like daddy is going to war with me. When i went to  my class today everything was fine and when we get home he bands me from the dining room! Then I was talking to mommy and I asked if daddy was in the kitchen and he thought I was going to say something about him and hes like if your going to lie about something don’t say anything. So I going on selective silence agaist him if he’s around I wont talk. I’ll even swear it!

I Elon Nadeen Smith will chose to be silent around  Felton Lewis Smith. This is due to unfair treatment. If I shall break it, renew it. 

Signed, Silent

For the first time in my life my Dad will be living in a different state than me. As he was unpacking boxes, he found one of my journals, and read the excerpt above to me over the phone. It is funny reading my thoughts, my Dad also had to try to force back a giggle or two to save me some embarrassment, but if I remember anything about my 11-year-old self (and no, I don’t mean the obviously gifted writer hidden behind some questionable grammar), it was that those feelings weren’t very funny at all, I thought my dad was my enemy. 

I was an intelligent kid, but no matter how smart I thought was, Dad was always at least three steps ahead of me. As an adult I’ve come to better accept (emphasis on better… not completely accept) being strategically outmaneuvered, but as a kid everything was a competition that I needed to win. Who would win the board games on game nights, who would solve the riddle, who would figure out the end of the movie and ruin it for the rest of our family first (sorry guys)… I lost roughly 98% of the time. And, as if the constant humiliation of defeat wasn’t enough, there was another big reason I found myself “at war” with my Dad. 

He was the only person who challenged me. I thought of myself as (and was often treated like) the golden child that would be the most successful person in the family. But, on top of being intelligent, I was a dramatic, mean, emotional, introverted, and insecure little girl. Because of this, my Dad and I didn’t have the traditional cozy, cute father-daughter relationship like the one I felt that he had with my sister or like those that you see on TV. Being coddled was the opposite of what I needed. Looking back on it now, it was as if everyone could see my potential and thought I would “get there” regardless, but my Dad was the only one to  realize that I had no chance of “getting there” at my current state and it was his task to get me where I needed to be… So he did.

One of the most distinct memories I have was from middle school while trying to do some advanced math homework that I just did not understand. After multiple failed attempts, I asked my Dad for help (one of many perks that comes with having a Chemist for a father). He had me re-read the problem that I had read 100 times looking for some hidden secret message, and then he explained how he would solve it. But, unfortunately for me, he did not give me the answer. I sat at the dining room table and I cried for what felt like hours before I finally got frustrated and focused enough to solve the problem. At that point he came back and said, “No one is ever going to give you the answer. I might not even have the answers to give to you. But, I can teach you how to think.” 

The only thing 11-year-old me could see at the time I wrote in my journal that day was that my Dad hated everything about me, but in reality we all know he never hated me at all. He loved me enough to teach me lesson after lesson, because he understood that later down the road I would need to be a different kind of person than the one I may have been becoming. 

He taught me how to be confident enough to get where I had the potential to be in life. He taught me how to solve problems I had never faced before. He taught me to handle criticism and how to never let anyone control my emotions. But, most importantly, he taught me how to be kind and loving in order to maintain one of the most important things in life, my relationships with others. I didn’t have any of those things before, but no period of selective silence would stop my Dad from instilling those things in me. 

As I read my other journal entries, I realize how much I’ve grown since then in more ways than my height and age. I hope he knows his hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Also, I hope he knows he taught me one of the biggest lessons of them all: 

If I am ever blessed with a family, all of my children will be different. They will have various gifts and personalities, but I will never compare them to each other nor make one feel more special than the other. But, I will need to have a unique relationship with them all to address their varying needs. Some lessons will be tough to teach (especially when we face tough times in life), and if my children are anything like me, they might fight back and/or not really understand them at all at the moment, but I won’t give up… and one day I’ll look back and remember why. 

– Loni