abe villarrealAbe Villarreal is the Dean of Student Success at Cochise College. He enjoys writing about people, pastimes, and the small things in life. 

Making time for extra moments makes a difference

By Abe Villarreal

I always drink a café latte on Wednesday mornings. I have it at 6:30 a.m. while sitting outside of a coffee shop that faces a twisty, narrow historic downtown area of southeast Arizona. The mountains cradle the town ,and the storefronts all have different color doors.

Here, the mornings are cool even in the summer. The latte always frothy. I like a good frothy latte, and I like it when the barista takes that extra moment to make the frothiness look like something that took talent and time.

That's the best part of the latte, seeing it when it was just handed to me and seeing that someone took an extra moment to froth it up. Extra moments. We need more of those.

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Trying big life things and little life things bring the best rewards

By Abe Villarreal

I like talking to people that know more about life than I do. Not just big life things that give you headaches and make you feel like you are always one wrong choice away from trouble, but also small life things like choosing the best butter for your morning toast.

Most people older than me have the important life things figured out. They did that not by sitting down and writing a list of pros and the cons like our teachers tell us to do, but by living life. They tried something. It worked. It didn't work. They knew what to do next.

People my age are afraid to try things. Afraid to try big and small things. And as they sit to weigh their options, life is passing by. I've witnessed teenagers tormented at movie concession stands thinking over what big box candy to purchase.

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Lessons from a stranger on the importance of names

By Abe Villarreal

I went on a mini vacation to get away. To feel like I would be a lonely figure, hiking the peaks around Pinos Altos, New Mexico in the Gila National Wilderness. Turns out I was reconnecting with people and places that were always important to me.

Pinos Altos is a tiny community, not exactly a ghost town, but a place where the mornings and nights are quiet, and most of the day is too. There's a main street called Main Street and you could walk it back and forth twenty times in less than twenty minutes. Aside from the tall pines and the scenic views all around, the most picturesque place is an old opera house called the Buckhorn. On one side is a saloon, in the middle a restaurant, and to the south of the building, an opera house that looks much like it did a hundred years ago.

On most nights of the week, the saloon is the liveliest place in town. You could hear glasses clinking against each other. The walls are filled with old-West style decor, and one top corner of the room is a mannequin of a lady performer from back in the day, sitting on a ledge and greeting all visitors.

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Fill up your plate with side orders of peace and relaxation

By Abe Villarreal

I'm going on vacation next week. It's been a good while since I took time off from work. People keep saying that I should "unplug" and get "disconnected." They say phrases like you should "get away" and spend time "alone."

I've always been interested in phrases and what people say. How we express ourselves, our way of communication comes from somewhere. Most people are well-intentioned. "I just want the best for you" is another one of those sayings that you hear often.

So, I'm taking them up on the offer. I'm going away. Not too far away, but away from the office and the work schedule. Disconnected from email and a ringing phone. A few days of hiking and staying in a cabin sounds like just what the doctor ordered and the more I think about it, the more I want to be there, in that place of separation.

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The magic of yard sales and lemonade stands

By Abe Villarreal

There are certain aspects of society that feel more special when you live in a community of less than 17,000 people. A place where you seem to run across the same people at the store or the post office. A town where if you go to work at the same time and leave work at the same time each day, you are bound to meet up with the same fella at the downtown stop light at around 5:15 p.m.

I'm thinking of those kinds of things that give you a special feeling, like people standing on the side of the road as the championship little league team is seen crammed on the bed of truck. Everyone cheers them on as they come back to town having defeated a regional rival.

"Way to go boys," is heard along with whistles and "Good job mijo!" from the crowd. Police cars escort the team with lights on and sirens blaring. This could happen in any old town or big city, but it feels like there is a bit of magic in the air when teenage kids wearing baseball uniforms are celebrated as hometown celebrities.

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Church potlucks fill you up with more than food

By Abe Villarreal

When I think of social events that feel like they belong in the past but are still needed today, it's the church potluck.

Church potlucks are different from other kinds of potlucks. They are the kind where you know what traditional dishes will be provided and that there will be too much of everything. Casseroles and desserts. Fruit trays and cookies. Homemade cookies.

Church potlucks are better than regular old potlucks because the people bringing the food feel that they are on a mission. Even though the Bible says that man cannot live on bread alone, those church ladies do their best to make sure you leave feeling like you had the best meal of your life.

I usually take a homemade salsa to a church potluck. I figure there will always be too many bags of chips and potato salads. Salsa goes with almost anything, and people always have fun asking what ingredients I used. Cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeños, onions, and whatever else I think will make it interesting. "Oooh, I can taste the garlic," and other familiar exclamations are usually heard.

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Memories of food stamps and getting ahead

By Abe Villarreal

There are some memories of childhood that stick with you, others you can barely remember. I stop and wonder sometimes why those that you do think of from time to time stay with you. Maybe they mattered more. Maybe what was happening was an important event that helped shape you.

I can think of the time I was standing at the Safeway checkout lane with Mom. The cashier was ringing up the groceries. Potatoes, rice, veggies. Nothing too exciting. We were vegetarians and we were poor. My grandpa once said a little bit of rice goes a long way.

As the checkout lady told her the total, mom pulled out a little booklet filled with paper money of all kinds of colors – purples, yellows, blues, and greens. They were food stamps. She flipped through them and pulled out the appropriate amount to pay the bill.

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Friendships are like monsoons, they come and go, and are needed


By Abe Villarreal

Monsoons remind me of many people I have met along the different paths of life. They come for a season. They are memorable and needed. You know they will only be around for a while, and then what seems like forever since you last saw them, they come back and replenish you.

This week, on my way home from a funeral, I drove through a strong and nerve-racking monsoon storm. It was late at night along Highway 80 in no man's land. There isn't much for miles except for the occasional fence post and dirt roads that turn off into what used to be homesteads or RV parks.

The road is narrow. The rain was coming down hard. It was one of those sideways rains that changed directions on you. What little could be seen only came through flashes in the sky that lit up the beat-up road and the mountain landscape.

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