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

There really is a silver lining in every cloud

By Abe Villarreal

I was going to start this column by sharing with you that spring was finally here until those tricky winds and cold mornings returned for one last stand, or what I hope is a last stand, and that I was upset about it because spring and summer are my favorite times of the year. I won't start there since I promised myself to start all things with more positivity.

So I'll begin by letting you know that lately, these low, fast-moving clouds and strong winds remind me that spring is almost here. It has to be almost here.

The trees know it because they started showing their leaves. Trees have been around for a lot longer than most of us, so they must know a thing or two about changes on the horizon.

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A loss of a mother, and a lesson in perception

By Abe Villarreal

Something happens to a person when he loses a parent. Especially when he loses a mom. I met a person like that last week.

I didn't know Angel before I met him. He lives across the street from me. I knew his mom. She used a wheelchair, and from my second-story kitchen window I could see her from time to time rolling up and down the makeshift wooden ramp to get into her front door.

She always seemed to be struggling. On a couple of occasions, she stopped by my church food outreach day. The church is only one block down from where we both live. She told us about her troubles, and she was always grateful for help.

For a few months, late-night flashing ambulance lights woke me up through my bedroom window. It seemed like every night she was on her way to the hospital.

I don't like to think about people as being one thing. Just good or bad. Just in trouble or just safe. Just old or young. Angel's mom, when I think of her, was always struggling. I wish I had known her in different ways.

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Really big chocolate cookies are for dreamers

By Abe Villarreal

When I was in high school, the little store on campus sold giant cookies. They seemed about U.F.O. sized and everyone's favorite choice was the chocolate chip kind because you could see endless amounts of chocolate chips through the plastic wrap that held it all together.

The computer lab lady always had one. I don't think she took a break for lunch, and she rarely left the computer lab, so the big cookie was what sustained her and gave her the energy to keep things in order.

Computer labs were a special place. We were learning how to sign up for our first email accounts and surfing the net was something very different from what it is today. I don't remember exactly what there was to do on the internet in those days since there was no YouTube or social media. Still, we managed to waste time on the internet.

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When giving up is hard to do

By Abe Villarreal

I'm not Catholic, but I like the idea of giving up something for a season. In our society, our way of living, giving up something seems like an extraordinary act of sacrifice. We need to give up things more often. This is the season of giving up things.

I think I should give up thinking, and overthinking, about trying new things. There are so many new things to try, and most never get tried because I think my way out of trying them. Playing guitar is something I have always wanted to do, and thanks to not overthinking, I recently started learning. I'm glad I did.

While I'm thinking about it, I think I should also give up doing things without too much thinking. Somewhere in the middle of it all there is a good balance for thinking. Not sure where it is, but if I think about it too much, I know it's not there.

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Senior Café and other reasons to gather

By Abe Villarreal

A local organization that supports disabled people in my town announced this week that they are hosting a new Senior Café event on most mornings of the week. The flyer said there would be free coffee and even continental breakfast for sale beginning at 7:30 a.m. each day.

Under a picture of a big cup of coffee and pastries, the announcement asked if readers needed a place to gather to solve the world's problems. It made me happy just to read it.

I don't yet fall into the "senior" category, so I don't think I'll be crashing their new social group, but I would like to attend. The world has many problems needing solving, and who knows, maybe there will be answers to some of them.

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Reader letters make life worth writing about

By Abe Villarreal

I like to read emails and letters from readers. People don't have to write something and send it to someone they really don't know. Still, many of you do, and it means something to me.

Sending someone a note of encouragement, a quick message that shares good feelings, seems like an act of courage these days. Especially if it comes in the mail in a nice note with a stamp on the envelope. That means that someone did take time to do something that people just don't do anymore.

Those kinds of notes are very special. A reader recently sent me a Thanksgiving card. Yes, there are cards that commemorate Thanksgiving. It had a nice scripture inside from the book of Psalm: Give thanks to Him and give Him praise.

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We need more old-fashioned hamburger experiences

By Abe Villarreal

My friend always chuckles when I go to a diner or a hole-in-the-wall, family-owned restaurant and order an Old Fashioned. It's what I call a traditional, classic burger.

You know the kind. Toasted bun, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and some mayo. Oh, and the best part is a patty that looks like it's been smashed down by the cook with one of those flat metal tools. It's not perfectly shaped, and the edges of the patty are the right kind of crispy.

Not all hometown restaurants serve an Old Fashioned, but they all should. Menus evolve, and so do tastes, but there is always room for the Old Fashioned. It's the kind of meal that isn't pretentious. It knows what it wants to be, and you know it doesn't want to be much other than good tasting and always the same.

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Let's build memorials celebrating reconciliation

By Abe Villarreal

There are a lot of war memorials in our great country. Statues and plaques with names of soldiers, everyday, ordinary people who picked up arms for a cause and who left everything on battlefields that are now grassy hills just a few blocks from your neighborhood grocery store.

When I visit these places, I read about the courage of the young men who left their homes in the middle of the night, following orders but not knowing exactly where they would end up. Somehow, in every memorial, we, Americans, are the victors. We may have lost a battle or two, but we always ended up winning.

I learn something new each time I'm at a war memorial. Still, I rarely learn something important about people, how we talk to each other, our way of negotiating, problem-solving. I often leave these places scratching my head, wondering where the handshaking memorial could be found.

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