Closing the 2018 Chapter


I took this photo of my husband, Matt, whom I was away from all of January on a trip to West Virginia. I remember going back to work after the New Year and being told that three days later I would be traveling there for a month-long course. I was miserable in West Virginia. When I came back, Matt had a surprise date night prepared. He took me to an arcade where we played all sorts of video games and had a blast.

In March, I traveled to Okinawa, my first time ever seeing Japan. The views of the water were amazing, especially at sunset, but the sushi and ramen were even more amazing! I felt so fortunate to travel to such a beautiful country and be immersed in its culture.

In the Spring, we signed up for a couple’s retreat to the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue, Washington. We took our Australian Shepherd, Titan, with us. We spent one night playing pool and walking around a mall area. I remember one kid played on a grand piano and Matt took my hand to waltz with me in the middle of the mall. My heart exploded and I could not stop smiling.

I couldn’t have been more proud of my husband for receiving this award. He works so hard everyday and truly takes pride in what he does.

As a reward for Matt’s achievement, I signed him up for basic rider’s course to receive a motorcycle endorsement on his license. The bike hunting began soon after he completed the course, and he came across this beauty. He bought his first bike and rode it to work throughout the summer and fall. On some nights, he would ride me around town, cruising roads that overlooked the Sound. I had never felt so free. I smiled riding behind him while he listened to music play on his Sena. He would let one hand off the handle to pat me on the leg or do a little dance just to make me laugh, which happened frequently. And then I would smack him on the helmet to pay attention to the road.

On June 9, 2018, we had our big wedding in Missouri and it was the happiest day of my life. It truly was the wedding of our dreams. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.

In August, we got all fancy and I took Matt to his first theater showing of Phantom of the Opera at the Paramount in Seattle. He surprised me with a beautifully orchestrated dinner at Ruth’s beforehand.

I found a new hobby with painting in my free time. Painting with acrylics was a little scary at first, but the more I practiced, the less cautious I became. It makes me proud to look upon my work that hangs on our walls and know that I created a work of art.

In October, I made the big decision to reenlist for an upcoming assignment that Matt and I are incredibly excited about. My coworkers and I took a short hike down to the water where our officer reenlisted me. Matt and Titan came along, and I gave Matt an appreciation award because of his continuing support of my military service and our future together.

I earned my first foreign wings following one of the best jump experiences I have ever had as a paratrooper. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful December day in Washington or a softer landing! It was also an honorable day to participate among our Canadian partners and be led by a new Jump Master.

Matt and I attended the military ball together where we enjoyed many wonderful ceremonial events, especially hitting the dance floor at the end of the night!

We challenged each other to see who would give the better Christmas gift this year, and I do believe Matt won! He bought me my first really nice camera and paint set. He did, however, love his present which was a hand sewn Baker family crest on a leather vest. Matt said that he hadn’t felt this excited about Christmas in a long time, and that really made this holiday special.

We have so much preparing to do and I may not be writing as much because of this. But I am thrilled to announce that we’ll be moving to Germany next year! It has been my dream to travel more throughout my life, and now I have the opportunity to live that dream with my husband. I cannot wait to share this experience with him and possibly grow our family along the way. 🙂 It’ll be a huge adjustment, but I know we’ll be more than ready for this new chapter of our story.

Bring it on, 2019!

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Lessons I’ve learned from my husband

Last year on this day, I married my best friend, my soul mate, my love. I remember how cold it was in the church, because I wore a small pink dress instead of something warmer. It was raining outside when Matt and I drove together to meet everyone there. The ceremony was somewhat non-traditional, but we knew this was going to be the smaller wedding before the big one in the summer.

My mother-in-law put together a wonderful slideshow of our baby pictures, childhood, and when we met here in Washington. It played while people walked in. Our parents met for the first time which went very well as expected. My mom and my friend helped me get ready in the lady’s room after we had ran through a brief rehearsal. My mom put her pearl necklace around my neck, a beautiful gift that I didn’t expect to receive.

“Here Comes the Bride” played and my dad smiled with tears in his eyes, holding his arm out for me to walk down the aisle with him. I smiled back, trying not to cry, knowing we both had waited for this beautiful moment. I will never forget the way Matt’s expression completely melted when my dad and I approached the aisle and made our way to him.

The vows were completely improvised. We later laughed about mine. It became a running joke that I would only love him “from sunrise to sunset” (because in my head it sounded far more romantic than it did out loud. My mission was to rework my vows for the bigger wedding, and I did! I absolutely do love him from sunset to sunrise, as well. Lol.)

There was also a moment when Matt was putting on my wedding ring and I was admiring the ring so much that I forgot to repeat after Marcus, our pastor! Matt nudged me and I shook myself from admiring the ring and repeat what he said.

I can’t help but to laugh at how memorable our small, first and official wedding was.

In celebration of our anniversary, I have written 10 lessons that I have learned from my husband since we got married. It seems like these are just a few out of so many.

I say this all the time, but I’ll say it again on this very special day that I changed from Amanda Ridder to Amanda Baker: I am blessed to have this man in my life and I cannot wait to see what 2019 has in store for us!

  1. Family is the single most important thing on this earth. That includes pets, good friends, coworkers and neighbors.
  2. Dessert is a perfectly acceptable appetizer.
  3. Every day calls for something to smile about, no matter how difficult it’s been or about to be.
  4. Play hard, work harder.
  5. When your favorite song comes on the radio while you’re driving, you must pull over and get out to dance, even if you’re in front of a 7-11 in the freezing snow.
  6. Things that are piled up are a unique and systematic approach to organization.
  7. A-1 sauce does not belong on steak.
  8. It is scientifically proven that a made bed is 10x comfier to lay on than an unmade bed.
  9. If things don’t go according to your plan, that means there is a better plan that your higher power has for you.
  10. Trust yourself and go with your gut; 9x out of 10, it’s right.

Meditations of Anticipation

Ahh, December 1st. The first day of the last month. We are here at last. Can you believe it? We’ve almost crossed 2018, another year. Another 365 days of learning more and perhaps wishing to have learned less. Maybe we achieved far greater goals than we set for ourselves. Maybe we didn’t even try to come close to them. Whatever the case may be, we are here in the greatest anticipation that seasons bring.

On my refrigerator is a Native American proverb that says, “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.” I’m guilty for disobeying this proverb. Every morning, I mentally trace my steps from the previous day up until that very moment when I woke up. I take a good 30 minutes to do this and reflect on what I did. I write it down in my journal – what happened yesterday, every detail I draw from memory. I evaluate my own actions and, from those actions, I rid yesterday of the things that no longer serve me. Now, the refrigerator magnet, if it had a say in the matter, would disagree. I spend far too much time retracing my past in the morning when I could simply let go of yesterday and allow today to unfold as it may. Nevertheless, I am stubborn and stick to my own ways.

I’m not saying this a practice for everyone. This just happens to work for me. I make time for it, no matter how freaking early I have to be up. But this is the time to start learning more about who you are and anticipating what you are capable of in 2019, if you haven’t already. 

Needless to say, not everything has to revolve around work or your job. Enjoy this time with family and friends. My husband and I are excited to visit my family in California next month. I cannot wait to show him my childhood home, the beaches I went to, the friends I made at the dance studio and the city I grew up in. 

I cannot plan or anticipate each day to happen according to my expectations. As I grow older, I notice that I tend to latch onto the past just a little tighter. I give it a nice squeeze before I have to release it into another chapter of my life. As I write this, I realize just how difficult that is. Don’t we all tend to hold onto memories? We take pictures and frame them to share moments of the past, or share memories on Facebook. We tell stories of people we used to know, whether that be someone else or even ourselves. 

Who’s to say it’s not productive in looking back? We take many forms every year and revisiting that as we approach a new year makes it that much more enriching. It’s worth looking back on who we were then and who we are now. That within itself is productive.  

Most of all, love you. FOR you.    

Welcoming 2018 Together

The idea of beginning again is like stepping onto a new Ferris Wheel.

We go around the same loop we did at another amusement park, except this ride is more grand and brings us to another vantage point we were never at before.

That’s the sense I’m getting as the morning moves on into the New Year’s Eve afternoon. My husband and I are newlyweds, and we get to enjoy welcoming the new year together. He’s playing Overwatch right now on his computer while I’m sitting in our tiny dining room, typing on my laptop. Our apartment is so small, but so befitting for our young marriage and we know we want to move out into something a little bigger when it’s right.

I am still in the army for at least another three years and he’ll be out next May. He’s already starting the job hunting process which is exciting. While we both love the army and are grateful to serve our country, he welcomes the idea of a fresh start to his career.

My new career in Public Affairs has been mediocre and not as busy as I thought it would be. In 2017, I published five articles – one in LA YOGA Magazine and four in the post newspaper. This is a huge step back from the weekly newspaper I worked for in California before enlisting. With my English degree, we’re discussing the option for me to apply for Officer Candidate School and move up in rank. If accepted, the risk of me losing PAO work is high. However, my mother-in-law was a 42A, a Human Resources Specialist, and we think that might be a good alternative for me. No matter where my career goes from here, I am grateful the army brought me to him and allowed me to get paid to write.

The morning after our wedding, we wrote down some short term goals we have that may stretch out into long term ones. However long it takes for us to accomplish them is however long it takes. There is no sprint in getting out of debt unless we miraculously win the lottery… knock on wood. We are in this marathon together. Our mantra is “we will get there,” or “we will make it.” I honor and respect that about us. We will work our butts off, and continue to work when we get there. One thing I admire about his family is that they don’t have to work, but they choose to. They are hardworking Midwest people, and I love them. I grew up seeing my parents work, work, work, and they still made time to love and care for each other and for me and my brothers. Lord knows it wasn’t easy for my parents; neither came from wealth. They made their own fortune which still wasn’t a bunch, but it was more than enough. My parents golfed together, they owned a business together, they raised three kids together, they traveled together – never wavering in love, responsibility or commitment.

I see that being us in thirty years. Still working, still dancing, still worrying, still laughing, still praying, still growing, still loving. I would be lying if I said it will be easy; it’s going to be tough. It’s going to take work. But with that hard work comes reward.

We will ring in this new year and welcome the ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What 2017 Taught Me

I swear I was just on a plane to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a shy little Specialist Amanda Ridder straight out of airborne school traveling to her first unit, unsure of practically everything you could imagine. I blinked and here I am: Specialist Amanda Ridder about to become Specialist Amanda Baker, a young woman open to a new chapter of her life once again.

2016 was the year I graduated basic, AIT and airborne school. Before joining the army, I was a 25-year-old college graduate living at her parent’s house waiting tables. I took the leap and joined the 1%, and no regrets ever since. And I’m just getting warmed up.

After the whirlwind of 2016, I wasn’t sure how I was going to be ready for 2017! I had conquered my biggest fear yet by volunteering to jump out of five perfectly good airplanes! I set the bar pretty high for myself.

In 2017, I grew to understand that time would open my eyes to even bigger challenges that I never predicted; that Google never told me; that a manual could not teach me. I fell in love and got engaged. I am planning not only one, but two weddings: one here in Washington in 18 days and another in  Missouri on my fiance’s family property next year. This alone goes to show how blessed I am. And yet again, I have set the bar higher.

I can only imagine what 2018 has in store.