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

Seasonal changes bring us reminders of new and old things

By Abe Villarreal

All the things that we welcome with each new season are the same things we long to see go away by the end of the season. As the heat of summer leaves us, so do the mosquitos and the monsoon rains. The long days are not long anymore. The trail of ants is shortening. The clouds of yellow butterflies I see where I live have now disappeared.

For weeks we've been complaining. We prayed for rain and then prayed for it to not come all at once. We welcomed the sun and on some days we told each other that it was just too hot outside. That's what people do. We want something, and then when we get it we wonder why it came the way it did and why it stuck around for too long.

And now that the mornings are colder and the nights longer, there will be those of us looking forward to sweater weather, and others will travel with portable heaters. Personally, I like the cold days, and I've been looking forward to not-so-hot days.

Of course, I say that at the beginning of what may look like an early winter. By December, I'll be singing a different tune because that's what people do.

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Trading post newspapers bring people together

By Abe Villarreal

I like those free trading post newspapers you see in gas stations and restaurant waiting areas. They are the kind of publications that don't seem like they have much to say until you open them and give them a chance.

In the fast-paced back and forth way we like to live our lives, many of us miss the old trading post newspapers. It's not that they are not there, waiting to be picked up; it's just that we seem to feel like everything we need is already in the palm of our hand. We don't know what we don't know because we don't take time for things like the trading post newspaper.

Then, you find yourself waiting in line, and you see the trading post is piled high, thin folded layer on top of thin folded layer. On each side are thicker publications, coupon-filled, color-pictured, and seemingly more important. Laying next to its costly counterparts, the trading post newspaper feels small and insignificant.

I decided to give the trading post a try this week, just to see why so many are published and why they manage to keep on getting published. Printed in black and white and free of any pictures outside of the advertisements, the publication is full of words but doesn't feel too wordy.

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What I see from my big office window is gratitude

By Abe Villarreal

Sometimes I like to get to my work office a little early just to sit and stare out the window. I'm lucky to have one of those corner offices with two big windows. It's one of those perks that we call perks but that we take for granted.

Now that the mornings are getting cooler and the sun a bit less fierce, looking out the big office windows before the workdays begin is a bit more satisfying. The world is quiet at this time. It's just me and my thoughts.

If you sit anywhere for long enough, you'll start to notice things that you'd never thought of before. Things like the barely heard whisper that the breeze makes against the trees. Here, in the beauty of the desert of the American southwest, quiet and still moments are broken up by the pitter-patter of little rabbits. When nothing else is moving, you can't help not to see them and how they move in quick but short bursts, run, stop, look, run, stop, look…

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Potlucks, bear hugs, and sharing like we used to do

By Abe Villarreal

Before our current fears over germs and spacing, coughing and handshaking, most of us still remember a time when we did things that now seem out of the ordinary.

Not just everyday things like greeting people with full-on embraces and bear hugs, but also the kinds of things that got us extra dirty. Fun things and not-so-fun things, but still, everyday things that over generations somehow haven't brought the end to our civilization.

While we work to keep each other safe and take every precaution possible to be healthy, I hope we can go back to the time when everyday, not-so-clean, ordinary ways of living can be done again. I'm thinking of the kinds of little things that make life special which now have become worries even before the pandemic.

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I adopted a cat to give it hope, it gave it to me in return

By Abe Villarreal

I never thought I would be so anxious about a cat. The last few days, coming in and out of the veterinarian office has been a bit taxing. Now, Nadya is home, and I know she's happy to be here.

When I adopted Nadya from the humane society in Silver City, she was about a year old. I first saw her in a room full of other cats that had been waiting to be taken in by a loving family, or maybe just a single guy in his thirties, for months. The pandemic was just in its infancy and I read in the newspaper that dog adoptions had spiked.

People were feeling in need of some extra company. I hadn't owned a pet since I was in high school, but there was always some kind of animal around the house, from what I remember. From dogs named Princess and Sparky to cats of all sizes and colors, and even a parakeet, there has always been a love for furry little guys in the Villarreal residence.

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A year of loss, but also new friendships

By Abe Villarreal

A lot of people have said goodbye to old friends in the last year. Fortunately, many new friends have also been made.

I met a guy named Sean who works at a homeless shelter in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I see him there during the evening hours when the residents line up in the kitchen to eat. When I have the blessing of helping out during my monthly volunteer cooking, he's always there to talk about the latest happenings in life.

Sean is from the Midwest. He's far away from home, and I'm not sure how he ended up in the Southwest, but he's still got a little of that midwestern in him. When I cook, I always know to leave out the veggies because he's a meat and potatoes kind of guy.

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The smaller the town, the bigger the spirit

By Abe Villarreal

It's that time of the year that we traditionally think about new beginnings. Kids are back in school. Bus drivers have returned to their old routes. Moms are packing lunches. Sports teams are on the field for morning practice.

Maybe the beginnings aren't so new. Maybe we are going back to what we always have known. Going back to the things that make us feel like us.

This past Friday I drove out to the tiny town of Elfrida, Arizona to watch a football game. Less than 500 residents live in this middle-of-nowhere farming community but what they lack in size is made up with spirit. The Valley Union High School Blue Devils trounced their competition that night winning 28-8.

It's no exaggeration to say that it seemed that half the town was there to support the 8-man team and it must have been good for the competitors to know that everyone around cheered them on with chants and cowbells. We all need a little cheering on these days.

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Finding the good side in everyone is worth a listen

By Abe Villarreal

I've been thinking lately on why it's so easy to get fixated on the bad side of people rather than the good. We all have a bit of both sides in all of us. Maybe it's because it makes it easy for us to find a reason to say no, goodbye, or never mind. Maybe it's because it makes us feel better about ourselves. If they are bad, we are good.

We do it in schools. Once a student gets in trouble, he's marked for life. "That's the boy that got in a fight," the teacher says. "I heard about him."

We do it at work. A colleague makes a mistake and she can't be trusted her anymore. We do it with family and friends, but most of all we do it with people we don't know and don't want to get to know.

Like the guy walking down the street who has a tattoo on his face. We tell our kids to be careful of that man. He looks like a troublemaker. Or the old man getting along with a little bit of a limp as a he pushes a shopping cart. We feel like we know a lot about him. He's made bad decisions. He drinks a little. Stay away from him.

We do it to young people who we know are going to make mistakes, big and small, because that's what young people do. Like the soon-to-be 18-year old who took a bottle from the corner liquor store. People whisper about him because if he did that he's capable of doing so much worse. Lock him up.

Our minds are filled with thoughts of anger and disappointment with the world around us. If a neighbor is accused of something we are quick to go online and ask for him to get the chair! After all, we have an obligation to stand up for our community and get rid of the scum.

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