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

Old Man Winter and my favorite things of the season

By Abe Villarreal

We're not exactly there yet, but I always wondered why winter is described as an Old Man. Somewhere in a faraway place, long, long ago, this idiom must have been born. I never thought of winter as an old man, but it makes sense if you think of the season as a grandfather-like figure.

Where I live, winters aren't too cold, but then again, it doesn't take too much for us to get cold in the desert. A few drops in the temperature and the sweaters are out of the closet, the hot chocolate ready to be served.

And then there are space heaters. For some reason, I really like them. They are the kind of gadgets that never changed too much, especially the kind where you can see the coils turning orange, and the sound of tick, tick, tick, as they first come on.

We are in the season where all our childhood favorite things resurge, and being around grandpas is ideal. Maybe it's because we spend more time indoors, with each other, talking of memories and doing things that make us feel cozy and safe.

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Homemade crafts and doodads you didn't know you needed

By Abe Villarreal

I went to a craft fair last weekend at an art gallery that used to be the town's public library. It's one of my favorite buildings because it still looks and feels like a place that's been around for a while. Many buildings today don't seeem like the buildings they used to be.

At the fair, there were mostly ladies sitting behind fold-up tables filled with trinkets, scarves, ceramic bowls, and interesting jewelry made out of funny-shaped stones of all colors. With the holidays around the corner, there were Christmas doodads in the shapes of pinecones that had been baked into holiday colors, and little trees with ornaments made out of book pages.

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I'm thankful for more than I realize during this season of thanks

By Abe Villarreal

Making gratitude lists are popular during this time of year. Not just because we have a national holiday with the word thanks in it, but because the days are shorter, the nights colder, and bundling up with a cup of hot chocolate on a comfy couch watching your favorite movie is always a reminder that we have plenty of reasons to give thanks.

I'm thankful that when I get home at the end of each work day that I can say I just got home at the end of a long work day. Not everyone I know can say that.

I'm thankful my coworker knows my favorite brand of coffee, and she buys it to restock the break room whenever she knows the supply is running low. Each morning after the first sip, I feel thankfulness.

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Celebrating each other makes us different from other creatures

By Abe Villarreal

While building an altar, an ofrenda, for Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, it struck me that humans celebrate other humans in peculiar ways.

Ofrendas are truly offerings. A way to give something to someone that you loved for a long time, and maybe a short time too. Among the flowers and the crosses, the candles, and the decorative skulls, are pictures, and mementos of life's little things.

I didn't grow up building altars, but when I pass them in store windows, or in neighbor's living rooms, I always stop for a moment to take in what someone is trying to say about someone else. Someone else that isn't here anymore and isn't forgotten.

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Teenage observations of life in the borderlands

By Abe Villarreal

I'm writing a collection of poems, not sure if I should call it a book yet, about living in the borderlands. It's the hardest thing I've ever done.

In doubting moments, I ask myself if I should keep writing these poems. "What do they mean?" is another question, and "Who wants to read them?" is a third question.

And there are other questions. Then there are moments when writing feels easy and the words go from mind to arm, from arm to hand, from hand to pen, and from pen to paper. Those are the best moments.

In everything that we do, simple or complex, there are questions on why we do it. Questions we ask ourselves and questions that others ask of us. For some reason, questioning our way of doing something is easier than jumping forward and doing that something.

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Some old places are never out of style

By Abe Villarreal

Somewhere in a rural town here in the Southwest, there's a place I like to go to because it feels like the same place it has always been. It's a small, narrow café. Standing inside, if you stretch your arms out you can feel like you can touch the walls on each end.

The windows are facing West, and during the evening hours the sun is blaring right on your face, but it doesn't matter. The seats are a little worn, those red leather seats that have been sat on every day for decades. A little tape here and there will do the trick to keep them going.

When you sit down, you're immediately greeted with chips and salsa because that is what is supposed to happen at these kinds of places. The menu is only one page front and back because they figured out what they could do well and they stuck to it.

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Let people know where you come from and what it means to you

By Abe Villarreal

Anytime you tell someone where you are from, an immediate impression is formed about you. People always want to know who they are speaking to on a basic level, and part of that discovery is learning where someone comes from. His roots. Her beginnings.

When someone says, "I'm from the South," I start to think of accents and mannerisms. I can't help it. The first time I went to New Orleans, I listened and watched, and learned that my ideas of a Southern person was a little on point, and a lot off point.

Other people say they are from the city. They mostly say that when they are in places far away from the city. What do they mean when they say they are from the city? I don't think it always refers to their physical residence but their way of life.

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Breaking from your routine can feel extraordinary

By Abe Villarreal

People say that getting started is the hardest part of achieving a goal. Like losing weight, writing a book, or fixing the garage door because it doesn't go all the way up like it used to. You can't get anywhere unless you decide to begin.

Yet, somehow, we get going each morning. We get things done. We survive what life has ready for us. When you think of it, despite the unsuspecting surprises that pop up daily, most of our lives are very routine. Wake up, get ready, eat, get the kids going, work, work, work, come back home, have dinner, wind down, sleep.

All of us have different versions of this routine. Living alone, as a single person, my routine is very routine. Wake up, let the cat out, watch her catch bugs, drink my vitamins, get ready for work, work, work, work, head home to relax, or meet up with a friend. It all happens again the next day.

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