Amanda Dorough | She's Paying It Off

The Story of My Journey to Debt Freedom, One Tiny Step at a Time

Leave a comment

That Moment Everything Starts Feeling Very Real

I’ve never been the homesick type.  Not to say leaving home is always easy for me but the separation just isn’t that hard.  I mean I do have my moments where I rather be home than anywhere else, birthdays, holidays….

Like the first Christmas I ever spent away from home.  I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  With the time difference between there and the west coast the time when my family was all getting together to celebrate fell at about 6am Thailand time (the day after Christmas). Despite the early hour I resolved the get up and Skype with them, I’d never missed Christmas and this was huge for me.

I remember bawling when the internet at our guesthouse failed, tears continuing to run down my cheeks as I wandered the streets of Chiang Mai in my pajamas trying the find an internet cafe that was open, and I did, thankfully, and only got one funny look.

That was the first time I really truly felt homesick, a horrible ache that fortunately didn’t last long.

So why do I tell you this?

Because I am having a severe case of separation anxiety right now.  Homesickness without having even left home.

Did you know that this is the longest period I’ve spent at home, in Seattle, since graduating college 11 years ago? One year, 7.5 months.  And if I’ve learned nothing else from my time at home it’s that the longer you stay in one place the harder it is to leave it.

And what’s funny is I’ve probably said “I can’t wait to get out of here” (“here” being more specifically my parents house) at least 2 dozen times over the past 6 months alone, but now that I’m faced with the reality of departure in only 3 short days, I’m beginning to mourn what I leave behind.

Possibly it’s because the future is so full of uncertainty.  The present, while not preferable on most accounts is definitely comfortable.  I have a family I can rely on, friends to hang out with, a church family I can serve with….

But in a few short days those all melt away.  As I stand on the deck of the MV Columbia and wave goodbye to Washington I’ll be waving goodbye to all I know and love for an uncertain amount of time.  While there will definitely be visits seeing as how I’ve spent 2 Christmases away from home now and that’s more than enough to last a lifetime, my life will no longer be in Washington, at least for this season.

I know that once I reach Soldotna, start settling in and creating a new life this sadness will fade away, it always has before and God always provides for me, but for now, it aches.

There is a bright side though.  It’s kinda like when you’re physically injured and people try to tell you that the pain is good because at least it means you’re not dead. This pain is good too, because it means I have something really good to come back to one day.

And on a final note can I just say Praise the Lord for things like FaceTime, Skype and even cell phones.  I can’t imagine what this separation would have been like 20 years ago.  Technology is making the world smaller and smaller everyday.


Ok now that I’ve gotten all those emotions out I wanted to just share some pictures from this summer, highlighting some of those things that are so hard to leave behind (get ready, this is about to get photo heavy!).

We’ll kick things off here with the 4th of July.  July 4th has always been a big deal for my family.  I grew up on a dead end street so all the neighbors would get together, BBQ and light off fireworks for hours, it was awesome!  Now, while personal fireworks are illegal most place around us, we live in a little unincorporated sliver, meaning there are no rules governing fireworks, and EVERYONE knows this so they come to our neighborhood and have a good ‘ole time.  This means our fireworks with friends/neighbors tradition gets to continue and we get to enjoy a pretty stinken big fireworks spectacular without ever having to leave our driveway.

Here’s my sweet niece Ellie rocking her Seahawks shirt and a huge sparkler, followed by my little sis Emily, her guy Richard and my soon-to-be nephew Ezekial 🙂

4th of JulyYay for fireworks!

4th of July

4th of July

Then one day in July my Moms family all gathered together at my grandparents house to eat dinner and watch old films from when my grandparents were younger…

But first let me just say that my Grandparents have some of the prettiest hydrangeas in town


My sweet grandma


The whole watching films thing turned into a bit of a debacle, mostly because no one could figure out how to set it up


Eventually we got it rolling, but we had to hand crank the bottom roll and after 5 minutes it started melting!… So we switched to slides instead and that seemed to work better


Next up came the birthday parties.  A lot of times in my family it can take us awhile to get together so we end up rolling multiple b-days into one.  This one included 4 in total: Both my aunts, mine and my cousins daughter Sammy.

Here’s Ellie and Sammy playing in the river


And when they got done playing in the water they decided to pick Huckleberry’s instead, yum!


I played a little next to the river too, with my camera that is.  Selfie time!


And then there’s always cake of course.  My aunt and I shared a cake this year because honestly no one needs 4 cakes… well maybe sometimes you do 🙂


I of course couldn’t leave Washington without getting up to my mountain (aka Mt. Rainier) one last time, so I took a couple of the girls from my youth group up hiking at Sunrise.

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier

And then came my last day at work.  My co-workers were incredible and blessed my socks off as I left.  I’ve only been gone for a week so far, but I’ll admit, I’m a little sad not getting to work with them everyday.  There are some really cool ladies right here.

Last day

This is Tracey, our lone Chinese agent.  I called her my Chinese mom.  This sweet lady has done some awesome things in her life!

Last day

Yep, I’m definitely going to miss them

Last day

And finally I leave off this post not with something I’m sad about leaving behind, but with something that makes me excited about my future.

At the beginning of July I got a chance to volunteer for Seatac Airports Tri-Annual Drill (TRIACE) and it was incredible!  I played one of 300 victims of a plane crash (they even had a whole backstory).  This was the largest drill of its kind ever done on the west coast and involved close to 200 emergency personal and even helicopters!

I made sure that I got there early enough in the morning to get one of the good (aka worst) injuries.  See, triage essentially has 4 stages, Black= dead or will die, Red= Needs to get to a hospital ASAP, Yellow= Needs to go to a hospital but can wait and Green= Not hurt or minor injuries.  My injury was in the red level and I had burns on my face, arm, neck and chest.  When we got there they gave us costumes and makeup to wear.  Mine involved this prosthetic burned chest piece that was definitely made for a guy as well as a t-shirt with the whole front burned away.  It’s a good thing I wore a tank top that day or I would have been showing a lot more than I cared to!

Here’s a glimpse of what it looked like.  My cellphone is lame and only has a rear facing camera so this is the best I could do.

Seatac DrillOnce the drill started they shuttled us all to the north end of the third runway and we all spread out on the tarmac around a training plane that the port has.  Thankfully it was the morning an not to hot yet otherwise I would have gotten a decent and patchy sunburn!

Once the drill began I felt like everything went really quickly.  Firefighters first got everyone that could walk away then came around  and tagged everyone with their triage level.  According to the description on a little card I got I could only sob in pain and say “I don’t know” to any questions asked (and not walk).  I’m not the best actress but I think I was pretty convincing.

This was my first experience on a backboard and my first experience in an ambulance, and it got me super stoked to become a paramedic.  Seriously guys, it’s going to be an awesome job.  It was also my first experience being interviewed for the news, although I didn’t make it on because of all the wildfire coverage going on at the time.  Oh well.

Here are a couple pictures I snagged from the write up the Seattle PI did about the event.  If you want to see more you can find it here.

I picked out this first one because I’m in it… barely haha.  If you look at the firefighters arm pointing and then work your way up to the first person laying down sideways, ya, that’s me.  I’m pretty famous now 😉


*Photo from the Seattle PI


*From the Seattle PI

You can also find more pictures from a different perspective on the Btown Blog here.  Every airport is required by the FAA to do a drill every three years, so if you get a chance to do one at your local airport I totally recommend it, and let me just say our emergency team were rockstars.  God willing they will never need to come together for an emergency like this, but if they do everyone will be in good hands.


Leave a comment

Like a Karate Chop to The Face

Ya that title means nothing, but anyways…

36 days…. 36 days since I last posted.  Oh ya, I thought about blogging several times in those days… thought about it, but didn’t do it, and well, it felt good.

I feel like there’s been a pressure on me the blog for the last 6 years.  A pressure that I indeed put on myself.  I wanted to share my experiences on SAS, in Thailand and on the World Race, but despite my desires there were just points I just got burned out.  The words didn’t come, pictures weren’t taken, and it felt almost freeing.

But alas, I keep coming back and I don’t see an end to my blogging coming any time soon.

It just felt good to to do nothing.. except work, and it would have felt even better if I didn’t have to do that!  I’m still getting used to having a split shift, it threw my clock for a bit of a whirl, so during those 6 hours in-between I’m not motivated to do ANYTHING, except watch TV.  I’ve watched a lot of Shark Tank, and Duck Dynasty.  Gotta get my Uncle Si fix!

I guess all that to say, I have content coming this week!  So watch out!






Oh, and my absence wasn’t all due to a lack of motivation.  There was that one afternoon I got in a car accident.  Yep.  I’m ok, just had some whiplash but everything is better now, but I only have liability insurance and the other driver was uninsured so I’ve had a lot of stress on my shoulders trying to get the money for the parts I need to fix my car.  In the meantime I’ve been driving my Grandpas GIANT Oldsmobile that gets about 12 miles to the gallon.  Ya, I need to get my cute little car back in tip top shape soon!

My poor little car

Leave a comment

Epic Fail

Remember that one time when I posted blogs?… Ya I know, it’s been awhile.  I can’t tell you how many times over the last couple weeks I’ve thought, man I need to post a blog… I even have the photos on my computer, but gosh I just couldn’t get there.

Amanda Dorough

But let me tell you, these last two weeks have been BUSY.  There’s a little thing that a big girl in the US needs called a job.  Yep, I cringe at the word, but unfortunately my college loans aren’t going to pay themselves.  So these last few weeks I’ve been absorbed in the job search, interviewing, and I think I may have found one.  All the I’s aren’t dotted and the T’s aren’t crossed so I’m still a little anxious about it, but I hope it will all work out!

So, now that I’m not knee deep in Craigslist adds and rushing off to appointments I finally feel like I’m at a place again where I can wrap my mind around cranking out good content.

To start, I’m weeks behind with my project life, so this weekend look to finally see my Week One layout.  Hooray!

Second my Totally Inspired posts are back on fridays, so keep an eye out tomorrow…

And finally, I’ve had some excellent thrifting trips over the past couple weeks as well as some productive creative sessions, so I can’t wait to share everything I’ve found and made!

Thanks for sticking around and I hope you’ll like what you’ll see!



2013: The Year of CHANGE

I’ve officially been home for two weeks now, and I finally feel like I’m starting to get my groove back in my American life. Whew, so glad to finally feel at home again!

And I have to admit, moving back at the end of the year was a pretty great decision.  All drama form my time in Bolivia aside, I love the feeling that comes with the turn of the year.  The hope that new things are possible, and the motivation to make you life what you’ve always wanted it to be.  In this season where new an potentially life-changing decisions are a given in my life’s journey, it’s nice to know that so many others are walking their path to greater lives right along with me.


So, with the start of this new life, I’ve chosen a word that’s going to kind of be my theme word for 2013, and that word is CHANGE.  I guess the word is kind of obvious, I mean my life right now looks nothing like my life did a month ago, but when I sat down to think about what I wanted out of this year the word CHANGE just hung over me.  I feel like there’s going to be a lot of it this year, whether I want it or not, so instead of fighting it I’m choosing to embrace it, and I’m actually kind of excited.

To start with the theme of CHANGE, I’ve made a few changes with the look of my blog, can you tell?  My original theme was centered around my time in Bolivia (I mean, I had llamas on my banner for pete’s sake), but now that I’m back in the states I wanted a new fresh look that I feel like is a lot more “me.”

There’s also going to be some changes in the content of this blog.  While I still intend to write about service experiences when they happen, my blogging will be transitioning from a “missionary blog” to more of a “Life blog.”  For years I’ve admired and been inspired by so many bloggers and at the same time struggled to find my identity in the blogersphere.  I’ve tried to get going so many times, but it’s hard to write blogs about thrifting when you’re living in Bolivia or about traveling when you’re stuck at home.  So, now that I have some stability in my living situation I feel like I can finally blog the way I want to, and in the coming weeks you’re going to see a lot of the new content I hope to introduce here as I attempt to build my readership to a base extending beyond just friends and family (although I love you guys so much!).

Instead of fearing that I need to stay within a “blogger box” this is going to be a place where I write about whatever the heck I want to write about.  There will be some travel, and a lot of just general life stuff, but you’ll be seeing many posts about Project Life, thrifting, cooking and DIYing along the way.

So my dear readers, I’m declaring 2013 as the most epic year of my life yet.  I have to admit, I wasn’t excited about moving back to the US, but I have a feeling great things are in store and I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.



Leave a comment

Little Miss Wedding Photographer

I never planned on becoming that type of photographer.  You know, the type of photographer who has like 2-3 shoots and week and who posts pictures of happy couples and glamorous weddings online with a fancy little watermark in the corner.

Instead I’ve always considered myself a photojournalist.  The type of photographer with a passion for telling the stories of the people and places I visit, in a raw, National Geographic-esq type of photography.  I don’t know how to pose people and the concept of doumenting someones important memories terrified me.  I mean, what if I didn’t get the right shots?  It’s not like we can go back and do the wedding all over again….

Yet when my friend MB asked if I would be willing to photograph her wedding in August my brain must have shut off because I said yes.  And then I could only think why did I say yes?  Instead of freaking out I tried to find the positive aspects of the situation.  I mean my friend was taking a chance on me, someone with zero wedding experience, and you never know it might come in handy in a portfolio one day…

So on the wedding day I showed up at the location, camera and lenses ready to go.

August 4, 2012 was both a perfect day for a wedding and the worst day for a wedding.  The pro was it wasn’t raining, which, in Seattle you can never bank on and those who plan outdoor weddings are brave souls indeed!  But it was also the hottest day of the year.  Seriously, I was in a pool of sweat in 5 minutes, and so was the bride!

In the end, despite the heat, and some issues with sun spots shining through the trees, I think the pictures turned out well!  It helped to have an incredibly photogenic and fun couple.  I was also lucky her wedding was when it was, because the next week my wide-angle lens reached a state of brokenness that there is no returning from!

Below are some of my favorite shots out of the hundreds from the day.  I spent weeks editing and trying out different effects, and in the end I’m happy (…although the first one did get cropped awkwardly…)!

Who would have thought?  I got through it, I didn’t die and the pictures actually turned out well!  Who knows, maybe I’ll shoot some more weddings in the future…

For now though, God has blessed me with so many photography/portrait opportunities in the last few weeks I’m home.  I did some senior pictures last weekend and I’ve got shoots lined up both weekends before I leave.  I feel like I need to point out that these were not opportunities I necessarily pursued, but they’re opportunities God gave to me, and I’m so grateful and excited!  Who knows, my portfolio is building up and maybe people in Bolivia will need portraits too!

More pics from these future shots and the senior pics shoot to come before I leave!

Leave a comment

Make A Move

Faith is hard.

Every now and again I have this thought that creeps into my mind that says “You put some much faith in this God, but what if he isn’t even real?  What if all your prayers are for nothing? What if there is no supreme being that truly cares about you?”

And each time I get scared and begin to think “what if?”

Then memories of my life flood before me.  All my fears that were erased and dreams that came true.  All of the incredible vistas I’ve seen and the faith filled people around the world that I’ve met and I know it isn’t true.  God is so real.  I see the proof every day, and moreover I know the truth in my heart.

And so I press on, believing in this God I’ve never seen, and trusting that his words are true, even when my culture screams “false!” and it’s hard.  Faith. Is. Hard.


To shift the focus a bit.…

I have always felt spoken to through songs.  It doesn’t come from all songs, and it doesn’t happen all the time, but every now and again a song will come into my life, and it’s just what I needed.

Sometimes I know it’s God speaking to me, like with Jesus Cultures “One Thing Remains,” and other times I know it’s words of encouragement from my brothers and sisters, reminding me of my goals and pushing me forward.

This last Wednesday I was helping out with my church’s youth group, and our lesson for the night was inspired by the song “Make a Move” by Royal Tailor.  As we watched the music video, the words began to resonate with me.

This time, instead of the song speaking to me, it’s as if my words were the song.  The exact words that had been on my heart were being strung together in a smooth melody…

Mr. Good Intentions, so much I wanna do
My mouth just keeps on running, but I never follow through
I heard that true religion, is love with hands and feet
I wanna find my own way to reach a world in need
Yeah, I’ve been captured by the unimportant
Locked in, and now it’s time to break free

There’s more to life
Open my eyes
Someone is needing You
So I gotta make a move
What good are words
When this world hurts
Real faith will come through
When I make a move

We don’t need permission, to go outside of these doors
And dream some crazy dream no one else has dreamed before
To show love and compassion
Whatever way it may be
To put faith into action, do more than just believe
We are hope to those who have been broken
We were made to make a difference

The preverbal “Mr. Good Intentions” is why I’m going to Bolivia.  This is why I’m chucking my college education to the wayside and choosing to work for free.

In this American life it’s far to easy to be “captured by the unimportant.”  I feel it already.  My hopes, desires and motivations are dimming and slowly being replaced by consumerism and comfort.

The easiest move for me to make right now would be to find a job, leave my missionary days to the past and simply leave the stories of incredible things God did to special occasions.  But for the most part I’d stay in my bubble.  With the same friends and same routine.  It would be comfortable, and easy.

But “what good are words when this world hurts?”  I know better.

The American church is full of Christians who are happy talking the talk, but when it comes to walking the walk?  Well someone else can do that.  They say I can’t.  I’ve got bills to pay, a family to feed, vacations to go on….

Where is the faith people?

While granted, not every Christian is called to pack their suitcases and move away, every single day we wake up and walk into the mission field.  No matter where we live.

As Christians we should have this overwhelming feeling in our heart.  A call to do more.  To help the helpless.  To comfort the broken.  To hold the hurt, and to give to the needy.

Instead we rationalize these feelings away, choosing our culture instead of our faith.

But I just can’t.  My eyes have already been opened.  I know that there is someone that needs me, and right now that person, or people, whoever they are, are in Bolivia.

So this is my time to step out in “real faith.”  This is my time to “make a move,” and put my “faith into action, do more than just believe.”

And I’ll admit every day is a challenge.  I have to trust that I am making the right move.  I have to believe that God will provide the money I need to raise and for the rest of my needs.  I have to have faith that if this is my life long calling that he will have a way to not only take care of all my needs but my college debt as well.

And sometimes it’s so hard.

This faith thing is so hard… but at the same time it’s oh so sweet.

Leave a comment


When I was in high school, none of the yearly youth group activities got us as excited as Sandblast.  Four days of camping and running around like crazy people in the ruins of Fort Worden, a fort built at the turn of the century (20th not 21st) to help protect Puget Sound, which now sits dark and damp on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula.

I have nothing but good memories of Sandblast, so you can imagine that when I was asked to go along as an adult leader this year I jumped at the chance.

With 12 youth and 5 adults we loaded up three vehicles and headed to the fort.  For 3 nights we “suffered” in the cold, well freezing, but the day’s were pleasant enough and while we did meet some bad-attitude brick walls, we made it through and I think the kids got so much out of it.

When we weren’t running around the forts playing games like sardines, Romans and Christians and capture the flag, we were doing team building activities, sharing testimonies and teaching this hyper group of teenagers how to sit down and get close to God through daily devotions, and it was great.

Fort Worden

Crazy sunset on our first night at the fort.

Fort Worden

Where one of the giant guns used it be. It would take 51 men to load and shoot it. Wow!

Fort Worden

Time for devotions.

Fort Worden

Sandcastle building contest.

Fort Worden

The winners and their sand alligators.

Fort Worden

The upper fort, a perfect place to play a game of smugglers!

Fort Worden

And they’re off! Playing a game of Romans and Christians.

It’s such a joy to be able to help and enjoy times like this with my youth while I’m still in America.  I am so, so thankful that I’ve been home in the summertime so that I not only get to enjoy time with the youth group but time with my family as well.  It’s been such a blessing!


Enjoying the Moments

Out of the past 10 years since graduating from high school I’ve spent a grand total of 3 years at home.  Life has has taken me several different directions, from around the US to around the world.  I cherish every moment I’ve been given to have incredible experiences and see God’s incredible world, but even more now, I cherish the moments I’m able to spend with my family, since I’m far away for often than I’m near.

Because I will be leaving once again, for an undetermined amount of time as I pursue God’s leading in Bolivia I made a conscious decision the try to enjoy as many moments with my family this summer as I could.

While work, various obligations and day-camp have all taken us in many different directions this summer there’s nothing like a family vacation to bring us all together.  So two week ago my family packed up our two cars and headed to Lake Bonaparte in eastern Washington.

On the ride there my sister Emily, my niece Elaina and I drove in my mom’s SUV (while my parents were in my dad’s Camero convertible, jealous).  We cranked up some mixed CD’s and just enjoyed the ride, driving through a couple forest fires and making a pit-stop in Leavenworth along the way.


LeavenworthOur week at the lake was in one word, peaceful.  It was nearly silent, the only sound breaking up the stillness was the distant call of a Loon, or the occasional crunch of a car driving on gravel.



We stayed in a pretty rustic cabin.  We’re talking bunk beds, no kitchen, no running water and no personal bathroom.  But we made do and the perfect weather and crystal clear lake water made up for what the lodging lacked.

CabinLakeSquirrel We passed our time by reading (I finished 3 books…), swimming, playing card games and hiking.  I loved that we had literally NOTHING we had to do and I finally got the rest I needed so baldy since returning from the race.

GamesSwimmingFishingFamilyMy parents left a day early to drive up to BC to meet my dad’s cousins so Emily, Elaina and I decided to take the long way home, making a stop in the “Wild West” town of Winthrop and driving along one of my favorite roads, the North Cascades Highway.

WinthropWinthropNorth Cascades HighwayNorth Cascades HighwayNorth Cascades HighwayWhile my family didn’t spend every second in harmony, I wouldn’t have traded that week for the world, because I don’t know when I’ll get this again.  Maybe a couple months, maybe a year, or maybe more…

Now, as summer wraps up and the school year looms there will be less adventures but I have another one I’ll be sharing with you in the next few days!

So how about you?  Have you gotten to go on any family adventures this summer?

Leave a comment

A Week In The Life: July 24-30

a week in the life

Here we go, round three of A Week in the Life!  I will admit that this last week wasn’t the most fun filled, but to continue the habit building I trudged on, my trusty Ipod and the Instagram App in hand!

And if you have yet to read my last blog posts, “What Can $100 Get You?” and “Something Tangible” click on the links.  Read them and pass ’em on!  Fundraising is admittedly my least favorite part of this whole process, but I understand the necessity of it, and I think it’s so cool that it allows others to truly invest and become world changers themselves.

Anyways, back to a week in the life!


1. I found myself as a homebody for most of the week and my sweet puppy Gidget kept me company. 2. My first Venti starbucks drink ever, a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino, good choice!  Thanks for the birthday gift Project Searchlight! 3. I watched my first Olympics opening ceremony ever, all 4 hours of it, and I just realized which finger Mr. Bean was playing the piano with… 4.  Helping out at the youth garage sale for the 3rd summer in a row, and PTL, we made nearly $1500 for youth programs at the church! 5. Enjoying Jaymee’s bridal shower, one of the few friends I’ve had for more than 20 years. 6. Nothing like a summer dinner, corn on the cob, asparagus, french bread and steak. 7. Super blessing, thanks the my attention the coupons, I got all of these crayons and markers for FREE! I’m excited to put them in care packages to take with me to Bolivia! 8. Rooting on the US during the mens 400 Freestyle relay, I guess silver will have to do 🙂

Leave a comment

A Week In The Life: July 17-23

a week in the lifeFrom the mountains of Georgia all the way back to Seattle, this week was a busy one!awitl

1.  I,J,K and L squads barter for their dinner during a market simulation at their training camp at Taccoa Falls College in Georgia.
2.  Only my favorite restaurant in the whole world, Texas Roadhouse.  They need to come to Washington soon!  But it was good to make a trip there on my last full day in Georgia after a long day at Training Camp.
3.  Taking off two hours late (which was actually a good thing after getting caught in Atlanta traffic) I didn’t make it back to Seattle until 2am.  TIRED.
4.  I love summer flowers, especially on a nice sunny day.
5.  Birthday dinner with the family at Azteca!
6.  Back to Normandy CC for an awesome sermon from Kyle.
7. The new look of the Seattle waterfront.
8.  Playing tour guide at Pike Place market with Kim.  I love the flowers!