Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tijuana's Live-In 'Prison Angel'

Tijuana's Live-In 'Prison Angel'

Today Tony called me while I was at work, not to tell me he loves me, but to tell me about a woman. This woman's story moved him to chill bumps and he couldn't wait to share it with me. I was able to find her story on the internet, so I have copied and pasted here for you to read.
I hope her story moves you.

Tijuana's Live-In 'Prison Angel'

American Nun Brings Hope to Inmates on Border

By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, April 10, 2002; Page A01


TIJUANA, Mexico -- Mary Clarke was an all-American Beverly Hills beauty, accustomed to luxury and her weekend beach home. She had eight children before a divorce led her to tear up her life and start again.

So as a middle-aged California mother she crossed the border into Tijuana in the late 1970s. She traded her sparkling gowns for the simple black habit of a Catholic nun, her English for Spanish and her airy Los Angeles home for a musty Mexican prison cell. For the last 25 years, Sister Antonia, as she is now known, has been the Prison Angel of Tijuana, a tiny woman in a spotless white veil ministering to the miserable.

Her mission is practical: She provides aspirin, eyeglasses, false teeth and bail to thousands of petty thieves and other impoverished convicts. She washes and prepares for burial the grotesquely tortured bodies left in the gutters by drug gangs. She sings in the prison chapel to lift the spirits of the down-and-out and counsels rapists and drug traffickers as well as the guards who carry automatic weapons.

Inside La Mesa State Penitentiary, one of the roughest prisons in Latin America, she lives in a concrete room about 10 by 10 feet with pink walls. She keeps little more there than her English Bible and Spanish dictionary. Long-timers recall when the 5-foot-2 woman halted a riot, walking into a hail of bullets to demand that the shooting stop. Inmates, stunned that she would risk her own life and let the tear gas burn away at her Windex-blue eyes, put down their guns and jagged broken bottles.

President Vicente Fox recently met and lauded Sister Antonia, who this year is also honored on a calendar praising women who have made great contributions to Mexico. Another president, Ronald Reagan, also wrote to her, in 1982, saying he was amazed at her "devotion to a calling beyond the ordinary."

Hollywood has come knocking, too. The Californian has always turned down the movie producers and generally has shied away from publicity. But now, at 75, and after a quarter-century in the prison, she consented to extensive interviews.

"I always felt for people in prison," she said. Then she laughed lightly, as she seems to all day long, telling a visitor that maybe some of her long-ago relatives spent time behind bars.

"It is different to live among people than it is to visit them," she said. "I have to be here with them in the middle of the night in case someone is stabbed, in case someone has an appendix [attack], in case someone dies."

All four of her grandparents came from Ireland and many people in Tijuana refer to her as the "Irish nun." She is a curiosity to many who do not understand why anyone would willingly live in a place known for stabbings and the smell of sewage, and who sings "Danny Boy" and other tunes while she does.

"There is no other way to describe her. She is a saint," said the prison warden, Carlos Lugo Felix.

Lugo said her work extends to helping poorly paid police and prison guards. Those people get little respect, in part because so often those who carry guns in Mexico abuse their power. But Sister Antonia embraces them, raising money for the children of Tijuana's long list of murdered police officers and hugging the guards as she walks about the prison. She also gives the guards ethics classes.

Lugo said their Prison Angel should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, like Mother Teresa, who came to Tijuana in 1991 and chatted with Sister Antonia about their shared mission of bringing dignity to the poor.

Even with her serious heart problems and her chronic shortness of breath, Sister Antonia rises before dawn and seems to never stop moving. She is increasingly devoting time to organizing the religious order she recently founded. The order is specifically for older single, divorced or widowed women who have decided to devote their lives to the poor. It is called Servants of the Eleventh Hour, a reference to their late start in their vocation. Seven woman have joined.

"I can't die without giving other women, and someday men, the chance to serve as I have," she said.

Sister Carmen Dolores Hendrix, a widow with four children from Orange County, Calif., is part of the new order, which has the blessing of the Tijuana archdiocese. Formerly an electronics assembler for Rockwell, she now cares for the sick in Tijuana.

Joanie Kenesie, another California widow who works alongside Sister Antonia, said she was drawn to her obvious love of what she is doing. Kenesie has accompanied Sister Antonia to Tijuana's red-light district and around town. As they go, prostitutes and former inmates wave and honk.

"They will scream out the window: 'Remember me? Look at my car. I paid for it. Are you proud of me?'. . . . They love her."

As word of her work has spread, growing numbers of lay people -- many of them not Catholic -- have come to Tijuana from the United States to meet her and donate to her charities, such as a hospice for women and children with AIDS. Truckloads of medicines and mattresses and other donated items come nearly weekly from San Diego to the Tijuana prison. Caring for prisoners and others in Tijuana with tuberculosis, AIDS and cancer is also a significant part of her work.

La Mesa is vastly different from prisons in the United States: Wealthier inmates live in relative comfort in little houses with sofas and stereos, while the poorest inmates cannot afford a bed and so sleep on the ground. Inmates are expected to pay for their living expenses -- from clothes to medicine -- and so Sister Antonia has made it her mission to help the poorest behind bars.

"I am hard on crime, but not on persons," she said. "Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity."

At a recent Mass inside the prison celebrating her 25th year of living among the inmates, hundreds of robbers and drug traffickers and murderers interrupted the service to give her a standing ovation. They cheered and whooped at the little elderly woman on a makeshift stage.

On the prison soccer field that day one inmate recalled how Sister Antonia ran to an all-night Tijuana pharmacy to get painkillers for him after stopping a prison medic from sewing up a gash on his hand without anesthetic.

Inmate Jorge Perez Ruiz pulled up one leg of his jeans and exposed a festering sore. "She paid for my medicine so this wouldn't get worse," he said, dabbing at a year-old bullet wound. Martinez Lopez Serrano, a convicted burglar, chimed in, saying he was feeling miserable until Sister Antonia arranged for him to be transported to an outside hospital for treatment for his hepatitis.

The government has given Sister Antonia the concession to sell soft drinks to 5,500 inmates. She has used the money to free more than 2,000 poor first-time offenders by paying their bail or fines. She has also paid to fix the teeth of more than 3,000 inmates. Some lose teeth in prison fights; others lose them because they have never owned a toothbrush or known how to use one.

"Pleasure depends on where you are, who you are with, what you are eating," she said. "Happiness is different. Happiness does not depend on where you are. . . . I live in prison. And I have not had a day of depression in 25 years. I have been upset, angry. I have been sad. But never depressed. I have a reason for my being."

Mary Clarke was 18 when she married, and, according to her daughter, Kathleen Mariani, she was depressed when her marriage of 25 years ended. But, Mariani said, her mother sold their Los Angeles house and did more and more charity work. Several times she went to Tijuana, a place where she increasingly felt she could do the most good. She played records to learn Spanish.

Mariani, who lives in San Diego, said her mother used to faint when one of her own children needed stitches and literally passed out at the sight of blood. "That is the greatest marvel of all," she said, noting the gritty work she now does. "To watch her walk into that prison is incredible."

Sister Antonia resists any discussion of her life before she entered the prison. But she keeps in contact with her seven living children by phone and weekend visits. Her former husband has remarried and the two have almost no contact.

While she often tells those she counsels that "only love can break your heart," the brutality she has witnessed has also strained it. Many of the inmates and police officials she counted among her friends have been murdered. She spoke to the Tijuana police chief the day before assassins pumped 100 bullets into his body two years ago. She knew well the La Mesa prison warden who was dragged from his car and executed in 1995. She comforted and housed the mother of the man convicted in the 1994 killing of presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio in Tijuana, one of the most infamous murders in modern Mexican history.

Manuel Martinez Rivas, a prison guard who has known Sister Antonia for 12 years, said she brings calm and warmth to Tijuana and the prison.

"She gives us a good talking to before we become guards. It's part of our training," he said. "She asks us to be better with our families, with our wives, to be faithful husbands, not to drink, and to treat the prisoners well."

Guards and others who know her say she helped get rid of the torture racks and other techniques guards used against prisoners in years past. Even at her celebration Mass last month, she used her few minutes at the microphone to ask for the closure of the so-called punishment cells, where prisoners are often beaten by other inmates.

"Little by little, I would like to think I have been an influence on getting better treatment for the prisoners," she said. "For so many of them, their only crime is poverty."

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Orange Rolls make it all better

You wanna know what make a southern woman smile faster then seeing a 30% off sale at Belks or Koles? Food! No it doesn't have the same impact as diamonds or a new convertible, but it comes pirtty close.

As I'm writing this I am fuming mad about something I really have no control over. I'm learning the hard way that we all have people in our lives that love nothing more then to steal things that are close to our hearts and take the credit for them. There are people out there that are nothing more then "Fame Hores"
They love to take things that are personal to you; things that you value and things that are rooted in your soul, and they turn them into a side show for themselves so people will dote on them.
Careful of these people, that often are wolves in sheep's clothing. You'll often find these "fame hores" in your circle of friends or family.

So as I'm sitting here stewing in my anger, I want nothing more then some orange rolls. Why you may ask...because the are yummy bread rolls that are not overly sweet like a cinnamon bun but their not just plain bread either. And you know what else sounds good? A big plate of fries with a side of mayo.

So my side note tonight is about a place called Alstake I use to eat there once a week while I was as state officer for Key Club, it just so happens they make these orange rolls I have a ankrin for.

I wish I knew how to make them, but I found a recipe on line. It sounds kinda close...maybe I'll make them tonight.

Orange Rolls

3/4 C. milk

1/2 C. butter

1/2 C. granulated sugar

1 t. salt

2 packages active dry yeast

1/2 C. warm water (110-115°F.)

4 1/4 to 4 1/2 C. bread or all-purpose flour

2 eggs, at room temperature


2/3 C. soft butter

1 C. granulated sugar

4 t. freshly grated orange peel

Warm milk slightly, add butter, sugar, and salt. Cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast on warm water; stir to dissolve.

Add 1 1/2 cups flour to milk mixture; beat well by hand or with an electric mixer at low speed about 1 minute. Beat in eggs and yeast mixture. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour, a little at a time, to make a soft dough that leaves the sides of the bowl.

Turn onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth, satiny and no longer sticky, 5 to 8 minutes.

Place in a lightly greased bowl; turn to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make filling. Mix butter, sugar and grated orange peel together.

Punch dough down and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a 16 x 8-inch rectangle. Spread with half the filling. Roll lengthwise as for jellyroll; seal edges. Cut in 1-inch slices. Place, cut side down, into greased muffin tins. Cover and let rise until doubled about 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. If using dark muffin tins, place on a cookie sheet the last 10 minutes of baking. Cool a few minutes in pans; then invert onto rack.

Makes 32 rolls.

If your ever driving through Alabama, stop by Cullman you fall in love with the history that is at every corner.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


On the eve of my sister's birthday, that I have give props to a kick butt woman who molded me with her own two hands.

My sister, Debbie...better know at our house as Deeb's, could never be put in the category of just sister. She is SOOOOOOOOOOO much more!!!

You could imagine my sister's surprise at the ripe ol'age of 8 when she found out she was going to be a sister. But what she didn't know was God was rolling on the floor laughing until tears were pouring down his face when he got the notation of giving my sister me. Sometimes I think he placed us in the same family for a good laugh, but other times I know he placed us together because he knew that no matter what, when, or where we would always complete each other and back each other up....even when that meant sacrificing ourselves.

My sister and I were always left alone when we were kids, and growing up in Joppa, Alabama...we had nothing better to do then to torture the living crap out of each other from dusk till dawn. My sister always won the battles! She would lock me outside during a thunder storm, put dish soap in my bed coz I woke her up early (by pouring water on her...hehehe), would trick me into doing her chores, and I will never forget all the times she looked at me and said "who's mom and dad going to believe? you are me?"

While waiting for the bus she would pelt me with little green tomatoes and tell me that I was a nuisance. But then one day a little boy punched me in the face....she kicked his butt from one end of the bus to the other. I would wait for her after school outside her classroom so she could drive me home. All of her friends would call me little Debbie, and this would be the greatest complement of my life.

My sister and I would hang out in her room late at night coloring and drawing with neon crayons with the black light on so the would look all cool. I would sneak down to my sister's room when she had friends over and she would always let me in. When the nights got scary I crawled in her bed and she would hold me until the storm of life blew over. Debbie made my breakfast, woke up with me in the night, taught me how to use the potty, took me to my first bar, and my first concert.

When we were kids we would always sneak down the hallway wearing socks on Christmas morning to get our stocking before our parents woke up. We would quietly open our stockings in her bed, laughing and trying to keep our voices down. I still remember our last Christmas morning together...she had came home from college the night before, and I can't tell you how happy I was to have my sissy back down the hall from me.

My sister took me to my fist gyno appointment, and just to make me feel better the took me out for the largest white chocolate chip macadamia cookie. Led me on a historical adventure of Mobile, Alabama that took us to the beach. Debbie and I have traveled the world together and done mission work in Guatemala...."Oh, Picayo...the girl can't look me in the eye-o"

Though my sister and I have seen and done it all together, there is one memory that stands out more then any other moment our life together....

On February 26th, 2001 at 7am, my sister walked through the doors of Brookwood Women's Center on a mission...her mission? Me, I was in labor with my first child. She walked through the door of the delivery room with a sense of calmness that I was grateful for. With her coffee cup, lip chap, and smile in tow, she held my hand when I looked at her scared and in pain, she just tilted her head to the side and said..."it's going to be ok, I'm right here." When I cried about the pain, she would reassure me and say "I know it hurts." My sister had already had three beautiful children by this point. When the time came she took my hand and talked me though the delivery of Avery. Debbie was the first to hold her, she cut the cord, and wrapped her in a blanket. Debbie stayed with me that night, she slept when I slept, and talked to me when I was awake. At one point we laughed and sang out loud as we were watching MTV.

Today my sister is a Groovy mom to four amazing children, who never throws in the towel. She is a wife to a man who has now loved her for more then half her life. Debbie will tell you its not easy to live with her, but I know its harder to live without her down the hall from my room.

Debbie blesses children with her laughter, honesty, and compassion as a school nurse. She has prayed over a dying children, stuck band aids on more knees then most of will ever see, took medical calls from yours truly.

My sister....yea she's SO much more then a sister. Debbie is my forever miracle.

I can't even give a recipe for this post, coz my sister can cook me right out of the water.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A moment for the ladies

Growing up I was always on the small side, 5ft 3in 105lbs from the time I was 13-22. We do have to take into consideration that I was pregnant when I was 21 and I shot up to 145, but I walked out weighing in at 110.

Yep I was tiny and I praised myself for it. I worked hard to have a body that I could be proud of, and still struggled daily with self image issues. I always felt I was never pretty enough, the other girls I went to high school with always had dates and would get hit on by the hotties while we were out 'cruising' on Friday nights. I always got the "oh, Juli...you just so cute and funny." I was one of the guys and though I have to admit I loved was always being on the inside loop of the "man's" world, and would NEVER trade in my guy friends for any girl in the world. But I craved for someone to say I was pretty, or dare I even say it...SEXY!

Now, at 28 years old...kissing 29, I'm an active mom of two and I know I will never be "tiny" again, and I know my husband thinks I'm hot no matter how big my butt gets, but he did tell me that if I got as big as my hero Paul Dean, that he would love me....with the lights off. I just love him and how he just lays it all out there....don't worry he was joking, at least he said he was anyways. Anywho, my beehind ain't a size 2 like it once was, and now I starting to get over it.
No I'm not having one of those high and mighty feel for me moments, but I have a serious complaint!

Did you know that the North American culture is one of the VERY FEW cultures where (i'm not talking about actively fit women) stick skinny women are valued. And don't be fooled they are valued, you see them every where on magazine covers, TV, or posing in clothes that people like America Eagle and Holster what us to buy. There is media out there telling our daughters that if they don't fit into this size 0/2 or heaven for bid they actually have curves that they're fat and covered in cellulite. Tabloids calling Jessica Simpson "fat!"

just pisses me off. No, my boobs arn't ever going to be as big as hers but I trump her by well, we'll just say a few pounds, and I would like to think I'm not 'fat'.
This kida stuff just puts the BIGGEST bee in my bonnet.

I really hate that we have become a society that values a 'girl' type body, when we should be showing appreciation to the 'woman's' body. I hate the we have become a society that gets pleasure out seeing girls/women clad around in clothing and bathing suits that arn't big enough to cover my big toe, and I have really little feet. Marlin Monroe...

one of the most beautiful women in movie history wore a size 12-14 and she had curves. She was not a rail that only ate salads, and skipped meals so she wouldn't be called names by the media, never foced to lose weight to play a role in a movie.

Now I'm not saying that I love my body, of course I don't no girl 'loves' everything about her body. But I am saying it would be a whole lot easier if the media and those little peons that make snickering smart a** remarks about ladies that don't fit into the extra small stores like the Garage would just shut their stupid traps and eat something. That has a few more calories the celery.

I'm just saying there is a big difference between having a body that looks like it belongs to a 12year old and having a body that woman should have, you know a bit of junk in the trunk. I hear Paula Dean has some great ways to add a bit of cushin on you tushin....

So Much Magic One City that Holds it All

There is a city in Alabama harbours history in ever nook and cranny. Its a city that has seen Civil Rights prevail and heard music from ones heart. I have yet to see another place like it. No, its not New York City! Its better!

I will start with a bit of history of this great ever changing city.

Don't you just love the thought when you break down the word 'history' you get 'his-story'. Sorry, just a thought for you to ponder.

16th Street Baptise church is one of those building that you can't walk past and not want to go in, if not for anything else, just to say a little prayer for the young lives that were lost on September 15, 1963, to a group of terrorist called the Ku Klux Klan. YES I did just call the group terrorist! Four girls went home to our Father that day, Addie Mae Collins (aged 14), Denise McNair (aged 11), Carole Robertson (aged 14), and Cynthia Wesley (aged 14) were killed and 22 were injured in a bombing that impacted the Civil Rights movement.

Ironically the only thing that survived on that side of the building was a stained glass window of Jesus Christ was knocking on a door.
This moment in "his-story" changed the south in ways that no one saw coming. People came together, black, white, men, and women.
The Civil Rights act was signed on July 2, 1964, but that didn't end the violence. That was something that only time and God could take care of.

Monday, August 3, 2009

In Bloom

I'm gonna put a disclaimer on this post, though the memories are mine, the inspiration comes straight for the most inspirational woman of my life. My sister!

Debbie, is not just my sister or just my best friend, but she completes in ways only God himself can understand. We have traveled the world together and I know we have many many more adventures ahead of us.
Our travels started at such a young age that I don't even remember the first few of them, but one of my most favorite travels has been right in our own back yard....so to speak.
It all started when I moved in with my sister for the summer. I think it was the summer of 92, but I could be wrong. Anyways like I said it all started when I took over my sister's house...just kiddin.
One summer my sister Debbie and my brother-in-law Andy(he's more like my brother after 18 years) packed me up and took me on an adventures vacation of Mobile, Alabama.

Our first stop! Grandma Bessie's, Andy's grandma!
This woman was a survivor who loved, played, and worked hard. She was married eight (8) times, so she says. Bessie was one of those women who's life was filled with adventure and heart ache, but she never let her circumstances control her, like most old fashion southern woman, when a mountain stood in her way she used the strength God gave her and commanded the mountain to move.
Bessie mastered the art of multi tasking, while owning a motel that was mostly occupied by ship yard workers. She would make money on the side by hunting raccoons and she owned a shrimp business.
As if this one of kind wonderful southern woman couldn't get any more talented, she had a green thumb too. In front of her place were the largest azaleas I have ever seen, they were breath taking. Her flowers reminded me of an avalanche of beautiful pink and white blossoms. Bessie also was a wiz in the kitchen, but she didn't mess around. She liked things fast, easy, and tasty.
Like Debbie's favorite recipe, Grandma Bessie's fig preserves.

Grandma Bessie's fig preserves

4 cups mashed brown turkey figs (I suppose any fig would work)
1 cup sugar
2 boxes strawberry jello
sterilized jars and lids

mash figs and put in a sauce pan with sugar and jello, cook down bring to a boil then simmer for about ten minutes.
pour in sterilized jars, screw lids on, turn jars upside down on a towel, cover them with another towel and let cool. the jars seal themselves so there's no pressure cooking or boiling necessary. If, however, a jar doesn't seal itself in the cooling process, you can boil it for a few minutes and turn it upside down again.

Try peaches for peach berry jam, but cook the peaches first and pour out some of the liquid before mixing in jello and sugar.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Relax, there is no food involved in this posting, but I do want to tell you about one of the most magical places in Alabama, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
My sister would often take me to this place of beauty and serenity. We would just spend the afternoon walking around, she would always have her camera in tow. This place holds some of my most precious memories of a simpler time.

If you ever have a chance to drive through Alabama, stop for a night or two in Birmingham. After all it is called the "City of Magic".