My mom remarried when I was 7 to Ascencion Leon. He had lived in LA and after about a year or so we decided to move to America. (I had a little brother in the meantime too but when youre 7 thats not a huge concern. I did want him to be born a girl and cried when he wasnt. I dont really remember why)
In the scheme of having everything happen with the number 8, we moved to America a few days after my 8th birthday. Well, I moved. My older brother had moved before and my family would move later.
I lived with my aunt Noemi Montes. She had a great family: loving husband, two girls, a boy and my cousin Omar lived with us. (His mother had passed away and Mimi sort of adopted him.) One of the great things about living with her was that she let us once a week for dinner pick whatever we wanted to eat. For something that was of such dramatic importance then, I cant remember what I asked for even once.
I was an ESL student but supposedly I was very intelligent. I had made only 9&10s in 1st & 2nd grade (Its a 10 point system) in Mexico. But honestly, then as now, I realized just how easily intimidated I am. I went home for the first several days of school swearing I would never learn English and believed it with nerve wracking gut wrenching conviction. This is how I have always been: afraid of failure even as I strive to success. I graduate Valedictorian of High School and Suma Cum Laude with Honors from college but every 1st day of the quarter/semester, when they would hand out the syllabi, I had no idea how I would possibly pass. Past success never mattered: this would prove too hard and I would fail. Never happened, the failing part but the fear part happened until the absolute last quarter of my final year at college. (This stands opposed to all my jobs where I always get annoyed at the training because I think that this isnt rocket science and they should just let me get on with it.)
They took me out of the ESL system in 3 months and by 4th grade I was in the GATE (gifted and talented education) program. I remember all my elementary teachers and I thought they were demigoddesses of some sort or another. The first time I saw an elementary teacher in a grocery store it messed with my entire universe. I thought they lived at school. The sad part of this story is that Im not kidding
Like any ESL student, I had a few anecdotes. We were poor and my mother was always looking for a good bargain. So I always encouraged her to buy things that were caffeine free, cholesterol free and sugar free because well you got the same thing with one of the ingredients at no cost! I struggled with the sh and ch sounds as well as some vowels so I swore a lot on my sheets of paper and because of the beach.
Anyway, the intriguing part was that it was the first time that I started attending another church regularly. I went to a Baptist church because the nearest Adventist church was far away. We still went to the Adventist church on Saturday but I went to both. It was then that I learned a very important lesson in matters of faith: there are those who are right and those who are wrong. I guess Id always sort of known that but now I had contact with some of those wrong people and I made sure to tell them so. I was so convinced this was the will of God, two different versions of his truth were out there and it was my job to straighten out the ones that were wrong. Somehow, believe it or not, I failed to convert that Baptist congregationBut at least they failed to convert me. Which somehow meant Id won.
But when I was in 4th grade we were in the library and being asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, everyone said what they wanted to be. Now I was involved with my church and knew I wanted to be a pastor but when it came to my turn, I chickened out. I was embarrassed. I wept solidly that night sure Id burn in hell. I never backed down from that question again but Ive never forgiven myself for not answering it.