Monday, April 14, 2014

THE TRUTH ABOUT SWELL RIO

Before things get too comfortable around here, I thought I might explain the story behind "Swell Rio."

You see, Flyboy is currently stationed at Laughlin AFB—an Air Force training base about 9 miles east of Del Rio, TX (population 35,000). Not much has changed since we moved three years ago, but we definitely know what to expect this time around. We originally lived here from 2008 to 2011 while Flyboy attended undergraduate pilot training. Young and newly married, we were blissfully unaware of our end destination. We arrived in November 2008 and we had the hardest time explaining our new town to family and friends. It was only when they came to visit (God bless them!) that they really got a feel of what life is like in this small border town. Fast forward to 2014 and we find ourselves here yet again!

Around here, things are pretty simple and laid back. If you've got a hankering for Starbucks*, there's something you need to pick up at Target, or you need to fly out of the nearest airport—well, you're about 150 miles away, so you might as well make a trip out of it. In fact, the entire drive takes five hours round-trip, so get your iPod playlists ready m' dears. Feel the need to spruce up your wardrobe? Look no further than J.C. Penney or Ross. Gifts or knick-knacks? Your best bet is the True Value, and I'm not kidding. If you're like me and you desperately crave a J.Crew fix—well, then you better get to know the UPS man. The last time we were here, m' main man went by Jaime. Next to Flyboy and Tripp, he was like my favorite guy in all of Del Rio. Seriously. Oh, and an average Saturday consists of visits to Wal-Mart, HEB, or Home Depot. Polish off your day on the town with lunch or dinner at Chili's. If you're feeling particularly crazy, maybe go see a movie?!? Get. Out.

I should admit that I prefer to be spoiled with Trader Joe's and regular visits to Anthropologie, but I've learned to live without those joys for the time being. Believe me when I say that when I do get to visit my favorite restaurants, stores, etc., it's maj on a level even Rachel Zoe hasn't witnessed. Trips to the big city feel like Christmas and your birthday all rolled together.

We've been here for two weeks, which doesn't warrant any moping or griping; however, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit afraid of what the next three years entail. Last Saturday, we hit all of the Del Rio hot spots, with the exception of the movie theater, and I got teary-eyed on our ride back to the base. I wondered, "Is this really what every Saturday is going to be like for the duration of this assignment?" Throw pregnancy hormones and the fear of how a baby will fit into the Saturday mix and I was a hot mess. No, this isn't the easiest place to live, but like most things in life, you have to work to see the good.

When you put aside the lack of amenities and the remote location, there's a diamond in the rough. It takes some effort to find it, but it's there. I can assure you! Live in a town like Del Rio and watch your priorities shift. Suddenly, you're more focused on friendships and barbecues and less preoccupied with your phone. I speak from experience when I say the Chili's and Tractor Supply routine can get really old unless you surround yourself with the best company. Amazing bonds are created when you live in an area like Del Rio. Some of our favorite memories hail from this very place, and I'm hopeful we'll create many more.

Back in 2009 during our first stint at Laughlin AFB, I remember emailing my dad. I'd heard a lot of people refer to this little ol' border town as Hell Rio. I thought it was rather clever (hence the remote location, temperatures hotter than Hades), so I opted to throw it into the message to my dad. Despite the fact that I couldn't take credit for the term, I just knew he'd find it humorous. When he responded, he referred to it instead as Swell Rio. I remember sitting at my computer screen and smiling—that was just like my dad. He knew that "swell" was one of my favorite buzz words and he used it in a way that reminded me of the person both he and my mom raised. Focusing on the negative is all-too easy, but it's an unhealthy and slippery slope. With 20+ years of military service and a handful of stressful moves, my parents endured a lot, but they always managed to find a silver lining, no matter what cards were dealt. They tackled the military lifestyle with so much grit and grace, and I'm determined to do the same.

That email from my dad taught me a lesson about perspective that I'll never forget. I can create beauty with my attitude, behavior, and actions—it's all up to me. There will still be good days and bad days in Del Rio, but when I refer to this border town as Swell Rio, it reminds me to see the good, no matter the circumstances. Some days are easier than others, but I've found that when you say it enough, you begin to believe it. At least that's my plan, and I'm sticking to it!

I hope today's post has cleared up any confusion regarding our current location. As far as I'm concerned, it will always be Swell Rio. Lucky for me, I've got a few years to see if it catches on this second time around.
P.S. I'm signing off for the week. My mom and sister are in town, and we've got a lunch date at Chili's! See you next Monday.

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