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

A biscuit recipe and a Bible are all you need 

By Abe Villarreal

A few readers responded to my last column with suggestions. One was to watch Brenda Gantt on Facebook. Ms. Gantt is a classic Southerner. A 74-year-old grandmother who puts on her own cooking shows.

They aren't professionally produced shows with perfect lighting and an enthusiastic audience. It’s just Ms. Gantt with a smartphone. A smartphone that she sometimes has trouble using. She posts something almost daily. Gravy, fried green tomatoes, sweet tea, and more than any item – biscuits. She loves to make biscuits.

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Old hymns are old, but still meant for today

By Abe Villarreal

I never thought I would like old hymns as much as I like them these days. When I say old hymns, I mean the kind of songs that people sing in church that sound like they've been around since before grandma and grandpa were around.

When I started singing them, I couldn't get past the thous and the thys. They seemed to be everywhere, at the end of verses and between words when you least expected them. I'd ask myself why we would sing in a language that doesn't exist, that only existed for a short period, in a faraway place.

The more I sang them, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I fell in love with them. Not the thous and the thys, but all the other words. What I learned in one of the hymns is that I had to get out of the way, and just listen. "I surrender all… I surrender all…"

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Life changing moments are different for all of us

By Abe Villarreal

In the blink of an eye, or the flash of a light, things change. You don't realize it until later, much later. The full impact of a life changing moment takes time to cement itself. To let itself be known.

That was probably true for a friend who went from walking to sitting still. From freely moving, to moving with the help of a machine. Today, he lives in two positions. Sitting down and lying down. He gets around, but not the way we do. He needs a lot of help. He was someone different from the person I know today. That changed in one day.

I wonder what happens when life changes for us this way? When we go from being free to being broken down. We all rely on others, even if we think we don't. Life is full of connecting dots. When they are connected, life works better. When we can't reach the next dot, we become still.

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Choosing to surrender is choosing freedom

By Abe Villarreal

I've been reading about surrendering lately. It's something that's hard to do. Thinking about it makes us feel like failures, like we are not in control. Maybe that's the point.

Americans aren't supposed to surrender. Growing up, we read in our textbooks that we went to war. Many wars, and that we always won. There was no such thing as surrender for our founding fathers or our military leaders. That's not the American way.

But I feel like surrendering. Throughout our lives, we carry good and bad. We live with the decisions that we make. Sometimes they feel very heavy. We are weighed down by our feelings, our past actions. Those things we need to surrender.

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Three strangers, two guitars, and a new sound

By Abe Villarreal

Three guys just met each other in the middle of an uneven and old historic street. They are musicians, or at least want to be musicians. I was sitting a few feet above them. The street is not really a street but more of an area with old brick-shaped stones that have moved in different directions over the years. The many years that they've been there.

"Hey, I just moved here," said the younger guy with the red colored beard and overalls. "I'm looking to be in a band, and I'm good." That's what he told the second guy who had been playing a guitar while singing something that sounded like it came from the early seventies.

"Really?" the second guy asked. They started chatting about Portland, Maine, where I am visiting as I write this to you. Then, a third guy showed up. A really skinny guy with a few missing teeth but a great big smile.

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Losing traditions means losing community

By Abe Villarreal

When I lived in Silver City, NM, there was a yarn shop called Yada Yada Yarn. I always liked that name. I'm not sure if the proprietors defined it as a yarn shop. Maybe it was a fabric store, or a sweater store.

There was yarn everywhere. Thick yarn and not-so-thick yarn. Deep colors and light colors. The kind of yarn to make scarfs and bonnets. The kind that seems to keep going and going.

I liked that place because there was a group of ladies that would sit together to knit, and to chat. One of the ladies said that knitting together was something that ladies did for generations, but it's something that doesn't happen much anymore. That's one of the reasons the ladies at Yada Yada Yarn did it. To keep the tradition alive. Knitting and chatting. Learning from each other. Creating community.

A lot of traditions are not traditions anymore. We are in a hurry. Knitting seems like it doesn't get us from point A to point B. We can't stay in one place. We are nervous people.

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Patriotism can be shown all year long

By Abe Villarreal

I was at one of my town's parks for the Fourth of July festivities. There were people everywhere. Many showed up early in the morning to claim their spot, put down their canopies, and roll out their grills. Everyone wants a good spot.

A group of us from church gathered to promote vacation bible school registrations and to watch the fireworks.

I heard someone comment that being there felt very American. The red, white, and blue colored cookies. The flag on the pole near the center of the park. The stars and the stripes on t-shirts and visors. The hamburgers and hot dogs.

I looked around, and I did see America. People of different backgrounds. English and Spanish spoken interchangeably. Dozens of ways to prepare and present potato salad. Most everyone standing up with their hand over their heart during the national anthem.

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A grandfather's quiet service worth honoring

By Abe Villarreal

My grandfather never talked about the War. In Spanish, he called it "la Guerra." In the 1990s, as a World War II veteran heading into his twilight years, I was a teenager that wanted to know more about the War.
We read textbooks about it and watched short films of it during history class. My history teacher made it sound like the War was the biggest event in the history of the world. Maybe it was, but it was hard to see from someone who fought in it and never said anything about it.

Grandpa Abe was a Seabee. I was named after him. His first name was spelled Abram and his last name is still misspelled to this day on his military headstone. Most people spell our last names with one "r" instead of two.

I remember his funeral. The folding of the flag. The shots fired in the air. The salutes. The solemnity that comes with someone who gets a special kind of recognition for serving his country. I learned more about his service by being at his funeral and by reading about him in the newspaper. I didn't know much from what he said about it because he never said much about it.

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