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Welcome, friends, to my blog. I am Reya Kailani, a 21 year old authoress, adventurer, and nerd. By writing this blog, I am offering you a rare glimpse inside of my mind… if you can handle it, that is. My mind works in interesting, unusual, and mysterious ways. As such, you never know what my next post may be about. One day I may be explaining the intricacies of operating a sailboat, and the next I may highlight a rare breed of dog. I could spend a week describing the differences between a hundred species of plants, and then post step-by-step instructions for a new belly dance move. If you would like to join me on this journey, following whatever strange path my thoughts may take, then I welcome you to follow this blog.

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I Don’t See Race

I don’t.

It isn’t a proclamation of what a good white person I am: I really don’t see race. Even when I was little, I have always been incapable of differentiating between races.

It isn’t just that I think non-white people are white, I often think that white people are other races; I’m just terribly wrong no matter what I guess.

Because of that, when I see pictures like this one, it really hurts me to think that there are people out there who actually do see me and the other people who are like me in this negative light.

You see, I have a condition called prosopagnosia, which is also known as face blindness. It’s believed to be a genetic condition. Basically, what it means is that my brain doesn’t have the ability to recognize faces.

I can’t recognize my own family in photographs, and I am very, very close to them. When I was in school, I always had to ask my teacher what race I was, because I honestly didn’t know. I never learned to recognize the facial features that distinguish races, but sometimes I would think about certain traits that had been explained to me and wonder if they applied to me. Unless I am focusing intently on one particular feature (like a nose or an eye), I can’t see it. I don’t see eye color, I have to really think about skin color 98% of the time, and I definitely cannot distinguish the basic structure of one human face from another.

Not only does this condition affect my ability to distinguish between individuals or races, but it even messes with my ability to determine a person’s gender. I’ve mastered the art of speaking to/about someone without mentioning their gender, because I really do have a hard time telling whether someone is male or female.

This lack of ability even shows over into my writing. I have to really think about including physical descriptions, and I can never describe specific facial features. I just use general terms like ‘handsome features’ or ‘plain’… Once in a while, I might look up facial description words and include one of two of them, but I rarely know what the word is talking about. Terms like ‘button nose’ confuse me, because I have no basis for them. I have no idea what it looks like. Looking up pictures doesn’t help me; I can barely recognize that it is a nose!

Prosopagnosia is thought to affect up to 2.5% of the population. That means that 7,972,500 people, in the US alone, have varying degrees of facial blindness. Now, not all of them are as bad as I am. Some of them are even worse than I am. At least if I focus intently on a facial feature, I can see it while I’m focusing on it (I can’t distinguish how it’s different from other peoples’, but I can see it)… But, not everyone with this disorder can.

There is no cure for prosopagnosia, though some research has suggested that, with intense work, there can be a slight improvement over the course of time. And it’s true, after years of work, I can sometimes distinguish African-Americans from other races, but only sometimes, and I’m never 100% sure.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there who fit in with this photo, because I know that there are. I know that racism is still alive in modern-day America, and I hate to see the effects that it has on our society as a whole.

All that I’m saying is that, not everyone who says that they can’t see race is a racist asshole. Some people just really don’t have the physical ability to see race, because they can’t see faces.

Just some food for thought…

A Piece of My Heart

It’s that movie… You all know the one that I’m talking about: it’s the movie that moves your heart and grips your soul, the one that is inexplicably yours. It’s the most amazing thing on the planet, and everyone must watch it and love it exactly as much as you do. So you tell everyone about it, over and over again. You push them to watch it until finally, you break them down and they agree to come over and watch the movie.

You’re practically trembling with excitement as you fumble with the DVD case. The DVD player won’t open fast enough, and it closes even slower. The previews take forever, so you skip through them.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, you see the title menu.

It’s barely had time to fully load before you hit the ‘play’ button.

You watch your friend’s face while the opening credits role, grinning stupidly as you wait for any sign of the deep love that you harbor for the film.

Their expression is blank, but that’s okay. After all, the movie just started.

You slowly lose yourself in the film again, just like you always do. Sometimes, during particular intense parts, you steal a glance at your friend’s face, trying to read their expression.

How are they not crying? How are they not laughing? How are they looking away from the screen?

Is… Is that a cellphone? Are they playing on their cellphone instead of watching the movie?

You feel a strange, hollow sort of ache in your chest. It’s small at first, hard to define, but it steadily grows as the movie continues to play, and your friend becomes more and more distant from the film.

They aren’t even watching now, not even a little.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the final credits role.

“Is it over now?” your friend asks, not waiting for a reply before they stand up and walk to the kitchen.

You hesitate, the hollow pain in your chest more pronounced now. “What did you think of it?” you ask, holding on to a final hope that maybe, just maybe, they did like it, after all.

Your friend shrugs. “It was okay, I guess. Hey, you wanna get something to eat?”

The painful feeling magnifies, it spreads to every inch of your body, leaving you feeling weary and inexplicably exhausted. Your eyes sting, even if they don’t tear. “Yeah, sure,” you halfheartedly agree, your mind racing to figure out why they didn’t like the movie. It’s so much a part of you, how could they not like it? When you asked to watch it with them, you were offering them a piece of your heart, a piece of your very soul; why was it not good enough for them?

Maybe they don’t understand. Maybe they don’t realize just how important it is to you…

Maybe they just don’t know you at all…

All that you want to do right now is curl into a ball. You feel isolated, even though you know that it’s silly to. I mean, it’s just a dumb movie…

…Isn’t it?

When Everything is Going Wrong

Failure. Just looking at that word is enough to make anyone cringe. We’ve all failed at something in life, and it’s not a good feeling. It hurts, like a physical blow to your pride. Fail enough times, and you start to lose hope, to lose interest in the world around you. The dream that you once cherished is now your mortal enemy, and a part of you starts to hate it. Finally, you just give up.

The sad part is, this is the only part of the story where we really fail: the point where we give up.

What we consider to be ‘failures’ in our daily lives are really only failures if we stop trying. These events are nothing more than set-backs, as long as we don’t let them break us, as long as we don’t let them steal our hope.

Yeah, I know, that sounded really corny… but it is true.

Those of you who follow my blog know by now that I’m pretty much the definition of ‘overachiever’. One of the many things that I have done with my short life is to successfully write and publish two (soon to be 3!) novels. Do you have any idea how many times I felt like a failure? More than I can count… but I never gave up.

Don’t get me wrong, keeping on when you feel like you’ve completely screwed up everything is without a doubt one of the hardest things in the world to do… but you can do it.

One of my favorite ways to keep the faith when I’m feeling down is to imagine myself about five years in the future. I’m sitting on a couch, on a stage, cameras on me, being interviewed by (insert name of popular talk show host here) about whatever project that I’m feeling down about. In this imagined reality, I’ve succeeded. I’ve accomplished whatever goal is currently eluding me, and I am telling (talk show host) and the audience all about my moments of doubt, my frustration, how I thought about giving up… and, finally, about how I refused to abandon hope, and solved whatever problem was in my way, and ended up sitting on that couch, in front of all of those cameras. And then (talk show host) looks at me in amazement, marveling over everything that I’ve overcome, and says something along the lines of, “Well, I’m glad that you never gave up, because you wouldn’t be here right now,” and then the audience starts cheering and clapping. By the time the fantasy has played itself out in my mind, I’m usually back to being 100% determined to accomplish my goals, no matter what it takes.

Maybe imagining yourself on a talk show isn’t your way of encouraging yourself. Maybe, for you, imagining someone special (a parent, a friend, a lover) telling you that they’re proud of you is what would be the most motivating? Whatever you motivation might be, find it! Use it!

Every second that goes by is a second that you’ll never get back. Every minutes, every day, every year… Once it’s gone, it’s gone… So, ask yourself this, am I going to wake up one day and regret that I didn’t take that chance fifty years ago? Am I going to look back on my life and be content that I made the most of every day that I was given, or am I going to look back and regret that I wasted so much time hiding from the possibility of failure?

If you buy a lottery ticket, the odds of winning are 1 in 13,983,816. That seems pretty insurmountable, doesn’t it?  However, if you don’t buy a lottery ticket, your odds of winning are literally nonexistent. If you never try, there is 0% chance that you will succeed. Zero. Zilch. Nil. Nada. Yes, the odds may be heavily stacked against you, but someone is that 1… why not you?

Sneak Peek at Najee: A Queen’s Ransom

Hello, friends! My third book, Najee: A Queen’s Ransom, has not yet been released, but you can read Chapter 1 right now! Feel free to check out the sample chapters of my other two novels, Najee A Glimmer of Hope and Najee: Awakening, at my website, NajeeSeries.com

 

Najee: A Queen’s Ransom – Chapter 1:

Akinia lurched upright in her bed, casting the blankets aside with one hand as she reflexively reached for her wajun with the other. The blade snapped open as the young warrior’s feet hit the floor. Panting heavily, Akinia’s eyes searched every corner of the darkened room, her weapon held in a ready position as she searched for the threat.

Rofa whined uneasily from her place on Akinia’s bed, giving her mistress a perplexed look.

As her breathing and heart rate began to slow, Akinia lowered her wajun. It must have been a nightmare, she realized, closing the weapon again. The hair on the back of her neck remained standing as she hesitantly lowered herself back onto her mattress. “I’m sorry, Rofa,” she whispered, absentmindedly stroking her pet’s thick fur. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

The cub huffed and laid her head back down, almost immediately falling back to sleep.

Akinia, however, was unable to. The images from the nightmare had been so real… It was almost as though she had been there.

But where was ‘there’?

With every moment that passed, more of the nightmare faded from her memory, but she struggled to hold on to it.

Fire…

Smoke…

People screaming…

A woman… A senator? Alania? Katarina?

A shadowy figure, obscured by the smoke…

That laugh… It was so familiar, but whose was it?

Frustrated, Akinia leaned back against the headboard, staring up at her ceiling as though it may contain answers. I need to talk to Tanlaish, she realized. This wasn’t a regular nightmare, it was different, somehow… Could it have been a vision?

She hesitated a moment before lowering the barriers around her mind, wincing as she felt the sudden onslaught of unfamiliar consciousnesses brushing against it. Why were there always so many people awake, no matter the time of night? Sighing heavily, the young Najee carefully searched through the minds until she found the vaguely familiar one.

Tanslaish was awake, but only barely. Several other minds were also touching the old woman’s; Tanlaish barely seemed to register Akinia’s presence.

The young Najee didn’t try to eavesdrop on their conversation, but she could feel the tension radiating from everyone involved. Hesitating only a moment longer, Akinia pulled her mind back into itself. I’ll just find her in the morning, she decided, still troubled. A part of her wanted to try and go back to sleep, but she knew that it would be impossible now.

Sighing heavily, Akinia stood and slowly stretched her arms and back. She stifled a yawn as she stepped into her closet, grabbing one of the dresses at random. It took her only a moment to discard her nightgown, but it took her several to figure out how to put the dress on. Once she did, she glanced at her reflection in the mirror, barely visible in the darkness.

The blouse of the strapless gown fastened snugly to her figure, the seams accentuating her curves. The sweetheart neckline was lined with a thick band of tulle, which draped across her upper arms, below her shoulders, before attaching to the back of the blouse. The floor-length skirt was made of a very thin, light material that did little to obscure the form of her legs, but it was also full enough that it wouldn’t inhibit her movement during a fight. In the darkness, it was hard to tell what color the material was; the pale blue could easily have been lilac or even a soft shade of green.

Akinia gave a wry smile as she fingered the silky material on the skirt. Katarina had sent it as a gift a few days after the young Najee had returned from Sigadia, but this was the first time that she had worn it.

Pulling her hair around to the front, Akinia quickly un-braided it. She used her fingers to fluff and separate her hair, not particularly caring if the part was straight or not. Pausing only a moment longer to slip her feet into her black flats, Akinia turned and walked over to her nightstand. She strapped her wajun around her waist and then slipped her com-link onto her wrist.

Rofa heaved a sigh as she lifted her head and looked at Akinia.

“You don’t have to go with me,” the girl laughed. “You can stay here and sleep.”

The cub hesitated a moment before laying her head back down and closing her eyes again.

Laughing to herself, Akinia shook her head in amusement as she turned and left her room. It only took her a few minutes to make her way to the meditation pond. The young Najee closed the door as she stepped out into the darkness. She wandered to the stone bench on the water’s edge, enjoying the sight of the stars and the three moons that were reflected perfectly on the mirror-like surface of the pond.

She pulled her necklace free of the blouse, holding the charm in the palm of her hand as her thumb absentmindedly caressed the six-pointed star. The comfort that the necklace brought to her was immeasurable. It allowed her to put aside the unsettled feeling that her nightmare had left her with, to forget everything that she had suffered in the past several years, to simply exist in the moment and enjoy the beauty of the night sky. Akinia didn’t know how long she had been sitting there when the doorway opened, flooding the small courtyard with the harsh light from the hallway.

“Akinia,” Tanlaish greeted. The old woman slowly made her way across the courtyard and took a seat on the stone bench, as well.

“Master Tanlaish,” Akinia replied, sliding over to make room for her. “What are you doing out here?”

The aging Najee laughed. “I suppose that it is surprising to see me somewhere other than the library,” she teased. “Actually, child, I came to speak with you. You tried to contact me earlier tonight, and I was occupied, but I could sense your fear, your uncertainty. What is bothering you, and why did you feel a need to speak to me about it?”

Akinia hesitated. “I had a nightmare,” she admitted, blushing as she realized how childish it sounded. “It wasn’t a normal nightmare, though; it was different, somehow. I just thought that, maybe…” The young Najee’s voice trailed off and her blush deepened.

“You thought that, maybe, it was a vision?” the old woman finished knowingly.

Hesitating only a moment, Akinia silently nodded.

Tanlaish smiled, nodding slowly. “You are so young, Akinia, but so wise for your age,” she mused, thoughtfully. “But you are still very young, and it is very unfair, everything that you are burdened with. The prophecy, the Gift, the power inside of you that still has yet to fully awaken… I am filled with a deep gratitude that I was not burdened with any of this when I was your age. You know, most Gifted do not know about the Gift, or how to use it, until they are nearly a century old? At the youngest, forty or fifty years of age? You are so young, Akinia…”

A slight crease formed between Akinia’s eyes, plainly displaying her confusion. “Do you think that it wasn’t a vision, then?” she asked uncertainly.

“Quite the opposite,” the old woman corrected. “I am quite certain that you had the same vision as the other half-dozen Gifted who contacted me; the same vision that woke me from my sleep. Can you remember any of it?”

Frowning at the almost desperate note in the woman’s question, Akinia shook her head. “Almost nothing,” she admitted. “There was fire, people screaming, but I don’t know where or who.”

“And you’re forgetting more by the minute?” Tanlaish asked, though she sounded as though she already knew the answer.

Akinia nodded.

Tanlaish sighed. “I thought so; it is exactly the same for each of us. A warning, I think, but it may be some time before any of us are able to discern what we are being warned against.”

Uncertain how else to respond, Akinia nodded.

“Well, I will leave you to your thoughts,” the old woman decided, “but, please, come to me if you ever have a question, or if you are able to remember any more.”

“I will,” Akinia promised, standing as Tanlaish stood up.

Without another word, the old Najee disappeared into the base once more.

Frowning, Akinia settled back onto the bench, taking her charm in her hand once more as she stared out into the darkness. What was that vision about? And why can none of the Gifted remember it? Could Lokita have something to do with it?

The thought came suddenly, shocking Akinia. However, after a moment’s thought, she shook her head to clear it. No, that’s impossible… Lokita is strong, but she can’t block the Gifted from seeing, can she?

Then again, if it isn’t her blocking them, what is?

Feeling the power start to gather inside of her, Akinia forced her mind to clear, carefully containing the flood of energy that was welling up inside. She crossed her legs, closing her eyes as she forced herself into a careful, relaxing meditation. The vision was nothing, it was nothing important, she told herself firmly. If it was important, the Gifted would have remembered it after they woke up.

It was just a coincidence that several saw it.

A Christmas Story

60+ Christmas Trees Beautifully Decorated To Inspire!:

Today as I worked my retail job in the mall, slowly losing my faith in humanity as one person after the next seemed to take it as a personal challenge to be more rude than the one before them, I was approached by a very pleasant woman with a pleasant smile. She was middle aged, a bit heavy set, and wore a festive t-shirt; your basic mid-week mall-shopper. Glancing past me, she looked around at my young female coworkers, and then approached me with a question. “Are there any single mothers working here?” she asked, making sure her voice was low enough that only I could hear her. A bit puzzled, I replied that there weren’t (neither I nor any of my coworkers have kids). Still smiling, she explained that it’s her personal Christmas tradition to help a few single moms.

I was floored by the generosity that this woman was showing towards women that she had never met, or even heard their stories. She was, quite literally, just looking for a random stranger to help, for a random family that she could give a bit better of a Christmas to. This woman was displaying the very essence of Christmas Spirit.

Honestly, it reminds me of a few Christmases ago, when my own family was struggling around the holidays. My dad had lost his job a few months before, just long enough for us to use up almost all of our savings on things like food and electricity. My parents were so worried about Christmas, about how they could afford to do anything for my sister and I at all, let alone give us a good Christmas. But, a good Samaritan decided to intervene: without knowing us, without knowing our situation, they felt compelled to anonymously mail us a Christmas card containing $300.00. It was more than enough for a few good presents, and it also provided us with a special dinner, and helped us to keep our electricity running a bit longer. I don’t know what we could have done without the help from a stranger, a stranger who wasn’t under any obligation to provide us with assistance.

We talk about the true meaning of Christmas, about peace on earth and goodwill to all, about loving our fellow man. We talk about these things, but how often do we act on them? So here is my challenge to you, my dear reader: pay it forward. Do something to make someone’s holiday season a little better. It doesn’t have to be anything big or time consuming or expensive: let someone pull out in front of you in traffic, open a door for someone, smile, drop a few coins into that red pail that’s outside of every store in America. It’s not much out of your day or your way, but it can change someone’s entire season.

Just a little food for thought.

NaNoWriMo – Days of Prep

Hello everyone! As we count down to the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I’m sure I’m not the only one scrambling for some last-minute preparations!

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an international event that takes place every year. The goal is to write 50,000 words before 11:59pm on November 30th. The catch? You aren’t allowed to write a single word of that story before November 1st!

I did my first (and, unfortunately, only) NaNoWriMo in 2013, which turned into one of my favorite works-in-progress, The Stolen Princess. I had every intention of participating in 2014 and in 2015, but, alas, between five classes, five clubs, two part time jobs, a full time job, volunteering at the animal shelter, and babysitting my niece, I just couldn’t find the time.

This year, however is different! This year, I will be able to scrape together the time to participate in (and win!) NaNoWriMo! If anyone would like to add me as a writing buddy on NaNoWriMo.org, my username is “Ysemay_Zasticia”.

I have a lot left to do in preparation for this coming month! I’ve still got to hoard junk food in my pantry, buy every available source of caffeine my local grocery stores offer, charge the backup batteries for my laptop, gather all of my fluffy pajamas and thick cuddling blankets, say my goodbyes and give my pre-apologies to my family for my coming absence, and locate my NaNoWriMo-specific flash drive. Not to mention, you know, deciding on a plot for my novel… and a setting… and characters… But, hey, I still have until the day after tomorrow to decide!

So what about you? What have you done so far to get ready for NaNoWriMo? What do you still have on your scroll?

Oreo Thins: A Review

Alright, so we’ve all seen the commercials for Oreo Thins: an Oreo that’s about 1/3 as thick as a regular Oreo. If you’re like me, your first reaction may have been something along the lines of, “Well what’s the point? All the filling is gone!” I vowed never to waste my money on a cookie that I was certain I wouldn’t like.

But, then, someone gave me a package of them.

I set them side, sure that I wouldn’t like them. However, a couple of weeks later, after realizing that there were no other sugary snacks in my house, I decided that it couldn’t hurt to try them.

I never expected what happened next…

I was hooked!

You see, I was imaging an Oreo with very little filling. I was imagining eating the cookie portion without enough of the cream to taste. However, that isn’t what an Oreo Thin actually is. In reality, the cookie part itself is paper thin, and the cream filling is about twice as thick as the cookie is.

That still may not sound appetizing to those of us who eat Oreos for the cream filling, but it actually is. You see, now there is more cream than cookie, meaning you can eat these without twisting!

The review from this Oreo-cream lover? Two thumbs up, 5 stars, 10/10, whatever you have to say to make you think “these are amazing”. I now have a new favorite snack… Yum!