Author of THE BROKEN - now available everywhere!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Megan's full of moxie and her new book tells us why!

As some of you may know, I am a proud survivor of domestic violence.  So...I am absolutely ecstatic to announce the debut of a fellow survivor's memoir of how she learned to live well again after her abusive marriage--WHO AM I? by the fabulous Megan Cyrulewski.  It takes a lot of courage and strength to come out the other end of a dangerous situation intact, but to write about how you did it?  That takes even more--the determination to thrive rather than merely survive.

Make sure to stop by either Barnes & Noble or Amazon for your paperback or ebook copy (just click on your preferred store):


B & N
12:40 PM Posted by JULIA JOSEPH 0

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why long sleeved shirts are sexy - and all the other questions I don't mind answering about my disease

"Aren't you hot in that?"

It's a question I get a lot.  And, to be fair, NO ONE ever wears long sleeves in the broiling desert summers of my hometown.  Except me.  I wear long sleeves and long pants all day long.  Every day.  Only in the dark hours do I dare to don tank tops and shorts.  So, the simple answer is, "Yes.  I'm hot, but I don't have any other choice."


Well, it's not because I find it sexy.  No, I wear these clothes (most of them moisture wicking athletic wear and khakis or loose skirts) because I have lupus.  And, when you have lupus, the sun makes you sick.  Anywhere from horribly itchy rashes to barftastic headaches, UV light can cost me quite a few enjoyable hours if I'm not extremely careful - and sometimes even when I am.  So, I wear sunscreen and clothing with lots of coverage.  When I have to be in the sun for more than a few minutes at a time, hats and huge umbrellas become part of my outfit as well.

"What the heck is lupus?  And why do you have a handicapped placard when you don't look handicapped or sick at all?"

Oh, boy.  These are my favorite questions, but not because I don't like answering them.  I love being able to educate people about what some call the "invisible disease."  

Lupus is an autoimmune disease - that means, basically, that my immune system is so strong (and so bloody confused) that it often attacks me, rather than foreign invaders.  Any tissue in my body is at risk, from brain to heart to kidneys to stomach and beyond.  Lupus can be very difficult to diagnose (it took four years in my case) because it can present in so many different ways for each person.  Even in my own body, lupus can show up one way this week and another the next.  Today, my central nervous system (mostly my brain) might be a wreck and my eyes will swell shut.  Tomorrow, my stomach and intestines may throw such a huge fit, I can't go anywhere more than twenty seconds from a toilet, but my brain (and eyes) will be just fine.

As to the second question, I have a handicapped placard because I am permanently disabled.  Yes, I am able to walk without assistance.  Some days, I can even walk a blazing four miles an hour.  But, on other days, I hobble around, almost crippled by arthritis (which, again, can dissipate overnight or remain for weeks).  

My biggest need for the placard is simple - those crappy days.  

With five abdominal surgeries in the last seven years, adhesions and scar tissue are a huge problem for me.  On good days, my inflammation dies down, and I hurt very little.  On not-so-good days, inflammation rocks my world and has me walking around like a ninety year old lady with severe osteoporosis.  (Also, I will remind you that, for me, the sun can be killer.  Even a few minutes spent walking to a building in direct summer sunlight can knock me out for the rest of the day.  My husband has "emergency" meals stashed all over the house for days like that.)  

Oh, and as for not looking sick...yeah, well, I try really hard not to.  I work my butt off every day to not look as old as I feel.  It's a thing for me.  I'm in my thirties, damn it.  I refuse to look like I'm dead before I really am.  Plus, I'm a really good actress.  

"Ohmygosh!  How do you live like that - never knowing if you're going to be well from one day to the next?"

Simple.  I LIVE.  And I love my life.  I've got a great husband who hasn't abandoned me.  (That's a huge problem for many women with my disease.  And I say "women" because 90% of people with lupus are female.)  I've got great children who understand my disease.  They've never known me as a healthy woman - I first got sick when they were 1 and 3 - and they couldn't be more sympathetic and helpful.  I'm truly blessed.  Sure, there are people in my life (family or friends) who don't get what I deal with on a day to day basis, but they don't matter.  They don't control my happiness.  They are not the ones in charge of making me smile.  I do that.  I'm the one that chooses to stand up and live my life, even when it hurts.  Some days, when I just can't get up to help my kids with their homework, it sucks.  Most days, though, I CAN do those things.  Or at least force myself to.  And isn't that what life is about in the first place?  Making it a point to show up when and where you can, to the best of your ability?

I'm not saying it's easy.  In fact, life is really hard for me most days, but I've got good insurance that pays a lot of money for me to have good drugs.  I was able to have children.  My husband makes enough money that my being unable to work hasn't bankrupted us (although it came close once or twice). These are luxuries most people don't have, so I try to be grateful.  I know I'm lucky in life, even with this crappy card I've been dealt.  Because, really, that's all it is.  ONE card in my hand of many.  Do I get jealous when I see other mothers/women my age and all the things their bodies can do that mine no longer can?  Sure.  Sometimes, I get downright pissed.  But I always try to slap myself out of it.  I can't see what goes on in their homes.  For all I know, their lives, their suffering, may be much worse than mine.

"So, what was the point of your rambling here?"

Dang.  I don't know.  I've forgotten already.  Or maybe it's just that my disease sucks.  It really, really sucks, but MY LIFE DOESN'T.  I've got love.  I've got hope.  I AM ALIVE.  And, after almost dying twice in the last seven years, that's enough.  For today, that's all I need.  Well, that and my long-sleeved shirts and khaki pants...

(That's me at my kids' baseball game.  And, yes, the heat was stifling.  :-)

8:00 AM Posted by JULIA JOSEPH 4

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New stuff!!

Okay, so I know it's been a while, but that's because I've been hard at work, both on the sequel to THE BROKEN and a new WIP.  I'm hoping that you'll forgive my absence when I present you with a little peace offering--a sneak peek into my newest work and one of my new favorite characters.  I've based the main character's best friend on my actual best friend from high school.  And, like us, the two girls in the book have the same name and came with a lot of our quirks.  

Without further explanation, the snippet I promised you:

“You’ve got to do something,” she whispered, pulling me into the corner by the door.

“About what?” I whispered back, clueless.

Her eyes went wide. “About Amber.” 

“Oh, no. No.” My stomach clenched, and I waved a finger in her face. “I am not doing anything about her. She can learn about Cal the hard way. Like I did.”

“Lex—” She crossed her arms. “You can’t really mean that. The girl’s an idiot and a bit conceited—”

“A bit?”

She aimed a glare at me. “Okay, a lot conceited, but still. You can’t let her suffer through what you did, at least not without warning her.”

“We don’t even know that Cal will be the same way with her.” I crossed my arms too, trying to be as stubborn as she was. “Hell, he was still following me down the halls a couple of hours ago.”

“He’s following you again?” She looked like she wanted to smack me. “Why didn’t you tell me? Or wait for me to get rid of Rocio?”

“Because you can’t protect me forever!” I clapped a hand over my mouth. I hadn’t meant to yell. We were supposed to be whispering for a reason.

She grimaced. “You may be right about that, but you know I’m right about Amber.”

Guilt moved in and set up residence next to my longtime roommate, shame. “Fine. I’ll tell her something. But I’m not going to like it.”

“I don’t care, as long as you do it.” Alexis laughed. “By the way, you better expect me to stick close to you for the next few weeks. And I don't care whether you like that or not.”

I stuck my tongue out at her when she turned for the locker room. She looked back and caught me.

“I hate you so much right now,” I muttered.

“No, you don’t.” She giggled. “Now, come on.”

For your viewing pleasure, a much treasured picture of those two young girls, only three years into what was to become a lifelong friendship...

Oh, and if you liked this little bit, I'll be posting more over the next few months.  Make sure to swing back by!
4:02 PM Posted by JULIA JOSEPH 2

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Captivating and Candid Cathrina Constantine!

I can't tell you how pleased I am to have Cathrina Constantine visit with us today.  I've had a chance to read her first novel, WICKEDLY THEY COME, and I can tell you that her writing is sophisticated and action packed!  Without further comment from me, here she is!

Cathrina, as a fellow YA author, I want to know why you’ve chosen to write for young adults.

I enjoy reading all genres. I don’t know why I’ve chosen to write YA, I guess I like to relive my youth.
--Maybe that's why I enjoy it too!

Does your spirituality have an impact on what you write?

Absolutely. Especially writing Wickedly They Come, which has a spiritual tone. A girl is called to be God’s Warrior against evil demons. It’s a battle between heaven and hell, even Lucifer makes an appearance. You’ll read about teenage conundrums and choosing the right path.

--Our work and goals dovetail nicely here!

What kind of kid were you in school?

Quiet. Introverted. Average. 

--Well, you're shining now!

What was your favorite subject?

English and Art

--Fantastic subjects, both.

Tell us an embarrassing (PG-13) story about yourself.

Too many to tell, it’s hard to pick just one.

--Darn!  These are my favorite!

Why are you writing your WIP?  What do you want your readers to get out of it?

I wasn’t planning on writing a sequel to TALLAS. But Nana Prah convinced me that it was a good idea. I write by the seat of my pants. I can’t see the future or what readers are going to get out of it just yet. I’m barely scratching the surface of a tale right now, and waiting for God’s guidance...

--Good for Nana!

How much research goes into your writing?

I’ve written a historical piece that takes place in 1969 during the Vietnam War. I did have to do research on the draft, history of the decade, and music of the time.

--Wonderful.  Such an interesting time in our country's history.

What are some of your writing rituals?

I prefer to write first thing in the morning still snuggled in my robe, or in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep. And I get more writing accomplished in the winter months when I’m somewhat trapped indoors. Summer is short here in Buffalo and I like to enjoy it, so writing goes by the wayside.

--I can't imagine the weather in upstate New York.  It'd be a challenge for this poor, desert rat...

What’s your secret weapon in fighting the word count blahs?

For my last wip I had a goal of 2k a day, excluding weekends. I completed the first draft rather quickly. The wip I’m working on now is slooow going.

--2,000 words a day is great!  (I only get that far in my dreams...)  I hope the new one picks up soon.  I've wallowed before when I don't have a clear end state in mind.  It's miserable!

Tell us about your favorite fan comment/reaction.

I’ve received plenty of gushing comments from people, which surprised me. I was totally tongue tied at the time, but now I just say, “Thank you very much.”

--It is hard to learn how to take praise, isn't it?  Even when that's what we're hoping for.  I'm so happy you've had such great reactions.

What are you reading/planning to read right now?

I have quite a pile of TBR books. I just finished Jami Gray’s, Shadow’s Edge that Prah & Constantine will be reviewing on June 2nd.

--I love Jami's work.  I'm making my way through her KYN CHRONICLES as I type...

What’s your best book marketing tip?

I wish I had one!!! Have any great ideas for me Julia??

--Oh, dear heavens, no.  I was hoping you could enlighten me.  You seem to have the whole digital thing so much more together than I do.  I guess we'll just have to muddle through together.

If people could see you while you write, what would be the silliest thing they’d witness?

My cat likes to lie over my wrist while I write. Drives me crazy, but she’s so old I hate to push her off.

--I've got an ancient dog I spoil too.  Precious, precious babies.  What would we do without them?


Haunting visions, unusual strength, and special paranormal talents are the norm for Seeley and her sixteen-year-old daughter Jordan. Their lives become perilous when the leader of The Black Order stalks them, trying to fulfill a prophecy to consecrate Jordan to his lord—Lucifer. 
Previously homeschooled and naïve, Jordan is inducted into the social culture of teendom at Elma High, where she encounters Mark, a mysterious new classmate, who is hell bent on keeping her unscathed from the forces of evil. But the battle between Heaven and Hell is escalating—and Earth is their battleground.

Buy Links for WICKEDLY THEY COME (click on your preferred format):


In a decimated world, setting foot outside the protected village of Tallas is certain death—or so they say. Mutations caused by those in the wilderness have plagued Tallas’s citizens—or so they say… 

For Doogan and Keeyla their belief in a Free Tallas has lost its glimmer. And when their young son, Fabal, is given a very dangerous assignment, they risk everything to protect him. Fleeing Tallas, they head for the wilderness. But when they are ambushed by cruel Mediators, Doogan is recaptured, and while Keeyla and Fabal escape, she is severely injured. 

Can the two of them survive in the wilderness? Will Doogan getaway from the clutches of the Mediators? And are the terrible legends about the monsters beyond the walls of Tallas true?

Buy links for TALLAS:

8:00 AM Posted by JULIA JOSEPH 4

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The amazing and artistic Aneta Cruz!

I am so excited to tell y'all that the amazing Aneta Cruz is with us today.  She had some wonderful words to share with us.  

Without any further blathering from she is! 

Aneta, you first came to the U.S. as a young woman.  What did you find most surprising in your first few weeks living here?

The most surprising thing were two things, actually.
First: how far apart everything was (I came to Southern California) which meant the only way to get some place, one needed a car (public transportation is beyond ridiculous). This was difficult to get used to for someone who would walk everywhere, finding a coffee shop or a bookstore on every corner.
Second: how dirty Hollywood was. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the media in my small country began to show TV programming from the USA and in it, the western world was so clean, attractive, and attainable. When I went to see for myself I realized how different the America on TV and the real America truly was.

--Funny, when I've visited other countries, I always noticed how dirty they were.  Of course, that may have to do with the fact that they were all extremely poor and/or war torn...

What kind of kid were you in school?  How did your schooling in the Czech Republic differ from your peers in the U.S.?

I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve always been a smart kid. Okay, I was a nerd, though a really popular one. I was always on the honor roll; I founded the high school paper; I even wrote and directed a play in eighth grade. Learning was easy for me. I didn’t really have to study or anything. And my favorite subject was geography. I love maps! In the Czech Republic we enter school as first graders at age six. We have forty-five minute periods and are introduced a variety of subjects. First to fourth graders study math, language and literature, a foreign language, music, art, P.E. and history/geography. Fifth-ninth graders study the same, but physics, chemistry, another foreign language, and creative writing are added. Once we get to high school we pretty much have a good foundation for everything so we go to a high school of our choice. If we get in depends on the test we have to take there. These high schools are specialized according to the path one will take afterward. I write more about this in my WIP that will either be called Behind the Iron Curtain or Children of the Iron Curtain.

--I will very definitely read that, Aneta.  It sounds fascinating.  (In fact, I've read an excerpt from it already--which I LOVED.)  I think the Cold War had a huge effect on our generation globally, and I love hearing stories from the other side of the Iron Curtain.  One of my best friends grew up in East Germany and, to this day, she always talks about bananas because they were so rare a treat during her childhood.

Why are you writing your WIP?  What do you want your readers to get out of it?

Okay, so the above mentioned WIP is a retrospective look at my life and the life of my friends. I examine the Communist Regime in Czechoslovakia through a child’s eyes. I remember all the confusion I’d gone through, the fear, the revolution, and the chaos afterward. I want the reader to see that although they hear horror stories about the Eastern Bloc, it wasn’t all that bad. It was a childhood that allowed my generation to mature and to fend for themselves in any situation. I believe we are stronger because of it. We can do anything. And we loved our childhood no matter how bad others think it may have been.

--As I said earlier, one of my favorite peeps is a child of the Eastern Bloc.  She's an amazingly tough and resilient human being.  (That's the best thing about being an Army wife--I get to meet women from all over the world and learn from their experiences.)

How much research goes into your writing?

A lot. Anytime I write anything, I always read quite a bit about the time in history, I study photographs, surroundings, and characters. I usually even take a trip to the settings I will be describing. I want my stories to be as authentic as possible, even when they have fantastical elements. I want to leave the reader with a question: “What if …….. really exist(s)?”

--I've found that authenticity grounds the fantastical in my novels.  It really does make them all the more believable.

What are some of your writing rituals?

Coffee. Coffee. Oh, and did I mention coffee?

--I love coffee!  Sadly, my stomach won't tolerate it anymore, so I've switched to tea.  It's not nearly as satisfying.  Sigh.  

Tell us about your favorite fan comment/reaction.

It was a comment made by my friend who hates reading, never reads, and swears she never will. Recently, her father ended up in the hospital and had to have heart surgery. She stayed with him in the recovery room and needed to escape those depressive surroundings, at least in her mind. She reached for The Mysterious Mandolin and read it in one sitting. The next day she announced, “You need to write another book like that. It was amazing. I need to read another story like that.” That reaction from a non-reader was like wow, my book made someone join the reader army!

--Fabulous!  You converted someone!

If people could see you while you write, what would be the silliest thing they’d witness?

When I write, I’m completely spaced out. I don’t eat, breathe, or anything. So when I do take a sip of coffee, I usually miss because I can’t feel where my body is. They’d see coffee dripping down my chin or my shirt.  I need a coffee stain remover. Ha!

--Uh...I do that when I'm not writing.  Lol.  I wish I had your focus.  I am officially jealous now.

Do you write full- or part-time?  If only part-time, what’s your “real” job?

Unfortunately for me and my stories, I write only part-time. I work in the mornings as a teacher for an Autism class and in the evening as an English teacher for an Adult School. I’m taking a writing break until the school year is over because I only spend about two hours a day at home right now. All the “writing” happens in my head for the moment. This is where I sort out my stories, characters, and plot line. But come summer, I will be living inside my laptop. I have 3 WIPs to finish.

--Oh!  Lots more good stuff will be popping up for us soon!  Woo-hoo!

Blurb for The Guardian:

Dr. Josef Stein was trained as a man of science and rationality, but after a tragic experience, he believes that there is something within—or even without—the human body science cannot explain. And Stein would do anything to witness it! When his patients begin seeing a ghost, and a woman suspected of killing her child even accuses this spirit of the crime, Stein takes it upon himself to investigate. Unexpectedly, evidence of a supernatural phenomenon starts to mount. The good doctor’s quest to see is ignited with fervor. He thinks he is on the verge of uncovering the veracity of a thousand-year-old myth when his research gets interrupted by the Gestapo. Stein turns to his colleagues and friends for help, but they begin to suspect that the doctor’s determination may have unhinged his mind. Has Stein, after years of treating the crazy, gone mad himself?

THE GUARDIAN is available everywhere!  Just click on your preferred reading format:

About the author: 

Aneta Cruz was born and raised in the Czech Republic. She spent most of her childhood hiding in the library be-cause her friends called her a liar. In her defense, she was only "telling stories." There Cruz fell in love with books and vowed to become an author. She'd heard that dreams come true in America, so she packed her suitcase and got on the plane shortly after her twentieth birthday. Since then Cruz has earned a BA in English Literature, MFA in Creative Writing, and published a-Muse-me[a]nt, a Collec-tion of Poetry and Prose. Her works can be found in Bad-lands, the GNU, the Global Alchemy Forum, and Mused. Cruz is the winner of the 2011 Desert Literary Society Fiction Award.

Want to find Aneta and cyberstalk her?  She's everywhere:

Twitter: @AnetaCruz
Instagram: @AnetaCruz

8:00 AM Posted by JULIA JOSEPH 3

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Gorgeous and Fantastic Nana Prah!

I can't tell y'all how excited I am to interview a fellow Black Opal Books author for my post this week. Nana Prah is an amazing lady and novelist who's been lucky enough to live on two continents.  Her newest novel, Midwife to Destiny, is set in one of those places--her beloved homeland of Africa.  I can't wait to share her awesomeness with you, so…without further ado…the gorgeous NANA PRAH!

What kind of kid were you in school?

I was the ideal student. Intelligent, quiet - but answered questions in class, competitive when it came to grades, and self motivated – my mom never had to tell me to do my homework. I rocked the school scene. It’s the social aspect I had trouble with, but the people I hung out with loved me just the way I was.

Add in athletics and you just described me.  Oh.  Wait.  I'm not sure I'd have fit under the "Quiet" label...

What was your favorite subject?

I was good at so many subjects that I didn’t have a favorite. I’m not bragging. No subject really called out to me. I guess I’ve always been a Jackie of all trades.

I think that makes us more interesting people.  I've taught everything from Physical Science to Theatre to English to Catholic Doctrine and Scripture.  I loved each one.

Tell us an embarrassing (PG-13) story about yourself. 

Seventh grade math class. We’re doing an assignment so there isn’t a noise to be heard. All of a sudden I sneeze and fart at the same time.  Everybody heard and a few people laughed, but nobody said anything, especially not me. For a few weeks after, the class clown would pretend to sneeze and fart. Hilarious now, not so funny then.

You just made me LOL.  As a teacher of many years, I can tell you that you're definitely not the only person that's happened to!

What do you want your readers to get out of your writing?

A sense of having read a ‘true’ romance that could happen in real life. I write multicultural novels, but the character’s skin colors and nationalities are not the focus. The way the story unfolds between two human beings searching to find love in this gigantic world is what I emphasize. 

That right there is why Zora Neale Hurston is my favorite writer of all time.  I love you now.

How much research goes into your writing?

I do enough research to get my facts straight. In my first novel, Love Through Time, I had to read about the Aztecs, Nazi Germany, The Crusades and the concept of past lives. For Midwife to Destiny my nursing background helped a great deal, but I did a lot of research on South Africa. I even took a trip to beautiful Cape Town.

Oh, darn.  What a hassle that pesky bit of travel research must've caused you.  :-)

Tell us about your favorite fan comment/reaction.

It’s been years since one of my friends read a book. I gave her a paperback copy of Love Through Time. After reading it she told me she couldn’t put it down. When I met up with her she kept telling me how wonderful a job I’d done. Yes, she swelled up my head.

Friends like that are awesome.  And usually the best marketers of our writing.

Which is your favorite all-time literary character? 

Don’t judge me, but Stephanie Plum. I love her. She’s a hoot. In every book Janet Evanovich has me guffawing. Not a pretty sound, but it feels good.

I'd NEVER diss Stephanie Plum.  She makes me laugh out loud and has gotten me through many of my husband's deployments.

What are you working on right now?           

I’m currently in edits for my next release from Black Opal Books, Love Undercover. I’m so excited about this book, there’s romance, fighting, secrecy, an undercover female agent, immigration issues, and a rigid yet hot male prison guard. I made sure all the prison guards were hot.

I'm not sure you can use rigid and hot in the same sentence on my blog.  I write YA, for Heaven's sake!

What’s your best book marketing tip? 

Don’t be afraid to ask bloggers and other writers for anything. Whether it’s a tweet, FB mention, a post on their blog, a review, whatever.  If you don’t ask, then you can’t receive and these things are important when it comes to marketing.

I need to learn to do just that.  I'm terribly bashful when it comes to marketing myself.

If people could see you while you write, what would be the silliest thing they’d witness?

I don’t do silly, Julia. Unless you count – nope, nothing.

Oh, man!  Why do I get the feeling you're holding back?  Can't you see I need constant confirmation I'm not the silliest person alive?

We’re always looking for great books/authors.  Whom/what is one of your favorites that you think has been grossly under appreciated?

Debbie Christiana. Ever since I read her first book, Twin Flames, a stunning paranormal romance about past lives, I fell in love with her writing. Her second novel, Solstice, is also phenomenal. Yes we are now friends and she is the most supportive person on the planet, but even if I’d never connected with her I’d still tell you her books rock.

Debbie is a fantastic human being.  Solstice is on my TBR list.

Do you write full- or part-time?  If only part-time, what’s your “real” job?

I write part-time. My fake job, which allows me to eat and live in something other than a cardboard box, is teaching students how to be nurses. I love my fake job.

And I love nurses!  They've saved my life on more than one occasion.  Thank you for putting more people like that into the workforce.

Is there any question you’ve always wanted to be asked?  What is it?  And what’s the answer?

What is one thing that makes Nana Prah so bleeping fabulous?
I’ve been trying to figure that out for years with no true answer. All I know how to do is shine, and I do it well.

You really do!  Just reading one of your Facebook posts is enough to make me smile.

Thank you, Nana, so much for dropping by!  I had way too much fun.  Come back anytime!

Okay, everybody, you need to run out and buy Nana's books right now.  You can find Midwife to Destiny on both B&N and Amazon.

Connect with Nana on Facebook.

8:00 AM Posted by JULIA JOSEPH 10

Friday, March 28, 2014

We're all in this together, ladies (and some gentlemen)!

To make it easier to understand my perspective, let me tell y'all right now that I've been an Army wife for eleven years.  Much of who I am today has been shaped by living the military life for the majority of my adulthood.  I wrote the following short story quite a few years ago.

And before you ask, yes, it really did happen.  (Even my own husband, bless his heart, asked that question!)

I couldn’t help but watch the scene unfold, as much as I tried not to.  I’d been enjoying a momentary mental vacation while my friend did everything but back flips to entertain my cabin fevered and depressed children.  Then, a young woman standing just beyond the three of them—alone in the endless Burger King line with three little boys who had to be (at most) ages three, two, and one—caught my eye. 
The poor girl, probably only 20 or 21 herself, looked frazzled and exhausted.  It looked as if she had tried to brush her hair at some point in the day, but, as soon as the mass had been tamed into a ponytail, some child’s fingers had pulled it in five different directions so that strands seemed to be shooting out everywhere.  Her t-shirt, grey with some slogan about her husband’s unit written in black across the front and Operation Iraqi Freedom II plastered on the back, was stained with what might have been baby food or spit up, and her jeans and tennis shoes were terribly worn.  (I’m not even sure those shoes were laced, come to think of it.)  Her boys were well, if modestly, dressed.  Their clothes were clean, though their faces were not. 
Her oldest boy insisted on repeating (loudly) that he was hungry and wanted the fish toy with his meal—a diatribe the young mom was attempting valiantly to ignore.  The baby was trying (and failing) to sleep in a car seat in the back of the shopping cart.  The middle child was crying, in that horribly screamy way only a toddler can, while his mom tried anything she could think of to soothe him.
Before the family could make it through the near-infinite line, the middle child had succeeded in making the baby cry.  The oldest child was still going on and on about how he wanted nuggets and a fish toy, no matter how many times he had been assured that was what he was getting.  I could tell the mom, who'd had more than enough, was still trying to disregard all of the mayhem.  It was a strategy I used quite often myself when I just wanted to sit down on the floor and cry after a long day of being trapped in the house with no company but my frustrated children.
I think I saw the snap before the young mom even felt it coming.
She grabbed the handle of the shopping cart, leaned into the face of her two year old sitting in the child seat up front, and screamed. 
She screamed her bloody head off.
And she did so in the PX food court, in front of about thirty army families of varying life stages—the blue haired Army Wife of the Year 1945, God, and everybody.
“Shut up!  Shut UP!  Shut up, shut up, shut up!  SHUT UP!!!”
I was pretty sure time stopped.  The whole crowd, all of whom had tried ignoring the scene for the past fifteen minutes, turned and looked at this poor young woman.  I could feel the weight of their judgment fall on her.  All these people, who knew her situation intuitively, stared at her. 
And they judged her. 
Not one of them had taken a second from their own lives to try to help her, even though we’d all most likely been in her situation (albeit some of us during Korea or Vietnam).  And I lost it.  I knew exactly how she felt at that moment. 
Because I’d had that same meltdown not two hours earlier. 
I’d just done it in the privacy of my own home.  No one had been there to judge me.  But, in judging her, I knew they were finding me guilty too.
I’d had a terrible day myself.  My husband had been deployed for a grand total of three weeks.  In protest of his father’s absence, my three-year-old son had three pee-pee accidents in a 24-hour period.  My nine-month-old daughter had an ear infection.  Again.  And my only friend within three driving hours had worked until 6 in the evening.  (Oh, and did I mention that my mother was dying of a terminal illness?)  I’d felt completely alone and entirely overwhelmed.   
In spite of a natural reticence to talk to strangers and my fear of making a fool of myself, I got up.  I walked over to the struggling young mom, and I hugged her.  I didn’t ask permission.  I didn’t stop to think.  I just grabbed her and hugged her as closely as I could.  Rather than pull away, she grabbed me like a float thrown to a drowning child.  And we stood there while she sobbed into my neck.
I had never met this girl in my life.  But I knew her. 
She was me.
“Sweetie,” I said, “Is your husband deployed?”
“Yes,” she sniffled.  “He’s been gone eight months.  I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”
“I know, sweetie.  My husband’s also gone.  I know how you feel.  And I’d be screaming right now too, if it wasn’t for my friend right over there,” I pointed about twenty feet away to Lizzie.  “Those are my kids.  She’s helping me with them because I feel as crazy as you do.  But we’re all going to be okay.  You are going to be okay.  Okay?”
I hugged her again.
“You’re not alone.  We’re all in this together.”  Oh great, I thought, now I’m freaking crying
“Thank you.”  She tried to smile at me through tears and agony.
“I’m sorry, but I gotta go before I start sobbing,” I managed to squeak as I ran over to my own table.
When I'd sat myself down, I looked around and noticed that most of the women, and some of the men, were crying now too.  Lizzie couldn’t stop sniffling.  And the whole room was very quiet.  Even the poor girl's crazy kids.  Slowlyvery slowlyeveryone swung back into action.  We started eating again or picking up our orders and moving them to the tables.
When Lizzie and I left twenty minutes later, the young mom and her kids were finally sitting at a table with their food. 
And they were laughing.

5:51 PM Posted by JULIA JOSEPH 0