Book Talk: Growing Up Duggar

“Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.” ~Mark Twain


Whatever your thoughts about the supersized Duggar clan of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, there are facts that you can’t ignore.

duggar fam

Fact: they live within their means. While their means may be somewhat larger now than, say, before landing a long-running television show, they haven’t always been wealthy. And yet, through frugality and hard work, they’ve managed to live debt-free for the majority of their married life, quite a feat when considering the sheer size of their family. Punks are expensive, man!

Fact: their children are well-mannered and God-honoring. While this may not matter to some, it does to me. Not only can the children carry on polite conversation (I know because I saw Josh, their oldest, at the Teach Them Diligently convention in Dallas recently), they know the Scriptures and are missions-minded.

Fact: they are more productively relational than most families. Observe them on the show. Even the littlest ones are mannerly and appropriate. Is it for the cameras? While it could be with the older ones, I’m guessing not. Have you ever tried to coerce a two-year-old into something for a camera? It ain’t easy.

These three facts alone make them parenting giants in my eyes.  Do I want 19 children? Probably not. Do I wear skirts everyday? Nope. Do I buy wheat in a bag the size of a Buick? Nunh-uh. But do I want to raise children who live within their means, honor God, are missions-focused and productively relational? You betcha.

growing up duggar

As part of her education this past year, our daughter McKenna (14) read Growing Up Duggar {click and buy}, a book primarily about relationships written by the four oldest Duggar daughters, Jana, Jill (who was recently married), Jessa (who is currently in a relationship), and Jinger. These girls, slightly older than my McKenna, have recently traversed teenagerdom and have come out on the other side to tell their tales. At 14, it’s important to hear from people like that. Below are McKenna’s summarizations and reflections on the book. I urge you, therefore, brethren and sisteren, to consider her words when choosing this book for your own daughters.  Allow your daughters to read McKenna’s thoughts and be encouraged.

by McKenna

In the final quarter of eighth grade, for my bible study, I read the book Growing Up Duggar, written by Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger Duggar. This book focuses on relationships, particularly with yourself, your parents, your siblings, your friends, boys, with culture, with your country, and with the world. Each chapter starts off with a bible verse corresponding with the chapter’s content. This paper is being written to give a review of the book, as well as how its lessons have come into play in my own life.

Chapter one is entitled Your Relationship with Yourself. It’s all about how to come to terms with who you are, both physically and spiritually, and how to accept that. They say that in order to be happy with who you are you need to accept the unchangeables. Those include who your parents and siblings are, the order in which you were born into your family, your nationality, your gender, your mental capacity, the era you were born in, you natural physical features, the aging process, and your eventual death date. They say, “God loves you more than anyone else in the world loves you and He has a unique plan for you.” As far as the changeables, they don’t despise some makeup, or a slight hair coloring, or anything that is not a drastic uproot from who you are. The girls said, “A girl’s outward appearance should send a message that says ‘This is who I am,’ not ‘This is what I do.’” This particular chapter helped me overcome some personal struggles with my own outward appearance and since then I have become much more accepting of the unchangeables, both of my physical being, as well as who my family is, and what my life was, is, and will become.

Your Relationship with Your Parents is chapter two. This particular chapter begins with a lengthy passage to all the girls who have sent Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger, or any of the Duggars, a letter or an email about troubles with their home lives, particularly about abusive, neglectful, or otherwise harmful parents. They address the issue with the utmost sympathy and understanding, though they admit not being able to empathize, obviously. They give out great encouragement and some very uplifting and relevant scripture to help these girls through rough patches they might go through, and to end this section of the chapter they give a quote, saying, “No matter what kind of family situation you grow up in, God can use it to make you stronger.” Into the rest of the chapter, they begin to discuss how their parents set up boundaries, and give insight as to how to approach your parents if you think that they are being too strict, and in some not-so-surprising cases, too laid back. Yes, they go into great detail about how they get mounds of letters asking advice on how to approach your parent(s) about being too inactive in your life. I put the ‘s’ in parentheses because most of the letters came from girls with single parents, who were perhaps trying to make up for something by being the “cool”, uninvolved parent. Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger write extensively about their father, and how a girl’s relationship with her father influences her relationship with boys. They say, “Girls want to believe their dads love them and will protect them. When they don’t feel that, they often go searching for these things in guys. This can lead to unwise decisions, which in turn can bring a host of consequences and painful memories.” The girls talk a lot about needing to respect your parents, even if you don’t agree with them. They talk about heart-to-hearts with their parents, as a unit, or in singles. Their mom or dad will ask nine key questions to each child during these talks, and those questions are:

  1. Who is your best friend? What qualities do you admire in him/her? Does the friendship build you up or bring you down?
  2. What do you want to do with your life? Whom do you want to be like? What skills would you like to develop? Do you wonder what God’s will is for your life?
  3. What books are you reading? What interests you in the book and how has it influenced you? Have you ever thought about writing a book? What topic would you write about?
  4. What things in our family discourage you? (Clutter? Lack of space? Conflicts with siblings? Rules? When others get in your stuff?)
  5. What changes would you like to see in us (Mom and Dad)? (More time with the family? Greater spiritual leadership?)
  6. What projects are you working on now? Who or what are you praying for?
  7. What things about yourself or your past would you like to change?
  8. If you could ask God a question, what would it be?
  9. What things can I pray about for you?

“Of course,” they say, “these questions changed over the years and depending on who the answerer is.” They go on to talk about the four rules of obedience. It must be instant, cheerful, thorough, and unconditional. This chapter inspired me to be more honest with my parents in regards to what I’m actually thinking instead of just saying, “I’m fine”.

Chapter three is all about Your Relationship with Your Siblings. One of the first sub-sections in the chapter is about apologizing and forgiving, the key to being a happy family. Even now, going the extra mile is always a must, especially with siblings, who were, are, and will always be your greatest friends. Patience and understanding are oh-so important when dealing with somebody that close to you. Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger say that in their family they do something called talking sweet, and often get asked by a parent, “Are you looking to be an exposer or a restorer?” in reference to tattling. And before yelling at someone to stop or going to a parent, simply ask, “Please don’t.” They also cannot over-explain the importance of laughing with, and not at. This chapter in particular helped me to strive to be more patient with my siblings, or anyone, for that matter.

The fourth chapter discusses Your Relationship with Your Friends. They jump right into it by stating the importance of pointing your friends to God, no matter who they are. Ful- blown Christian or an unbeliever, point them to God. They say, “God can use anything and anyone to change another person’s life for the better.” You may be the changer, but you may very well be the changed. They give wonderful insight on where, how, and why to make the right friends, and also how to keep them. One saying spoke to me, and that is, “There is nothing you can possibly say to an individual that would be half as interesting to him as the things he is dying to tell you. And all you need, in order to get the reputation of being a fascinating companion, is to say: ‘How wonderful! Do tell me more.’” On the opposite end of the spectrum, they also discuss how to stand up to your friends when they are doing something you know is wrong, and ask, if they pressure you to do it anyways, should they really be your friends? They urge you to be picky with your friends, and don’t be afraid to cut all ties cold turkey with one if need be. In that light, never ever make fun of someone’s standards, because you wouldn’t want yours made fun of. This chapter made me think more carefully about whom I want to engage with, and who is below my standards. Also, that I will try to make myself be the type of person I would want to be friends with, or be above my own standards, so to speak.

Chapter five is perhaps one of the rougher ones to talk about, and to summarize. Your Relationship with Guys is what it’s called. They get right in the thick of it with some help from their parents, especially with what it takes to have a great marriage. Two things, apparently, and they are being willing to say “I was wrong,” and asking “Will you please forgive me?” They warn about the dangers of being in love with being in love. The main problem in relationships these days is going into it and looking for what you can get out of it, instead of what you can put into it. They also say, “If God gives you a full, seventy-year life, your time as a single person is very short compares to the time you’re married. Be content with every stage of life and wherever God has you; use your time wisely and invest in things that will last for an eternity.” They state that even when you do find the “perfect” guy, he won’t be perfect, and that he will mess up, so don’t expect a fairytale ending. Ask yourself the question, “What kind of girl do you think a godly guy would be attracted to?” The answer, the four girls say, is a godly girl. Strive to not only look for something in a partner, but to have what your partner is looking for, within reason. Don’t completely change who you are, or else you partner won’t be seeing you, he’ll be sing the falsified version of you. Therefore, he would love this version of you, not the actual you. Another thing to be careful of is not confusing love with a sexual desire. The results of this are disastrous, so always think carefully before committing to a relationship. Ask your parents for advice; they’ve been through this. As much as they “just don’t understand you” or “can’t get how you feel for this one,” just give them a chance to help you with this major, life-long, world-changing decision. They also stress the matter of guarding your heart, which includes guarding some other things. Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger write that you know in your heart what is right, and you have opportunities to participate in actions that will undoubtedly break your heart, sooner or later. They also say that before thinking about entering into any relationships that you need to make a list of things he must have, things that are negotiable, things he can’t have, and things that are negotiable on that plane. And by things, they of course mean personality traits, physical traits, and spiritual traits. I enjoyed, in particular, the aspect of this chapter where they wrote out to a few men that they knew and asked them what they looked for in a girl. The group ranged from ages 16-29, and their professions ranged from farming to construction, from politics to graphic design, and another is a Marine Corps officer. These men replied with a multitude of answers to the questions, too many to type out, but they are featured on pages 141-142. These questions and the corresponding answers have given me a look into what Christian guys want in Christian girls, and this chapter has given me a new perspective of how I should go about finding the right partner for myself.

The end of the chapter had a sub-section entitled Making Seven Key Commitments, which I have decided to commit to. They are as follows:

  1. I will not date or court anyone who does not love Jesus as much as I do.
  2. I will wait patiently on God’s timing to bring the man He has for me.
  3. I will choose to save my body as a gift for my future spouse.
  4. I will choose to not fill my mind with sensual material (R-rated movies or vulgar T.V. shows, bad internet sites, teen magazines, and romance novels).
  5. I will choose wise friends and wholesome activities.
  6. I will share my heart and inner struggles regularly with my parents or a loving Christian counselor.
  7. I will give my love life to God and focus my time and energy on serving the Lord.

Chapter six, seven, and eight I’m going to roll up into one summary, and they are about Your Relationship with Culture, with Your Country, and with the World. The reason I am combining these is they are less filled with life lessons and teaching for others, as they share their own personal experiences with the world so that you can learn from their mistakes instead of making them yourself. They talk about self-control on the internet, on T.V., and whatever else you may absorb into your brain. They also talk about their show and how they manage to stay “normal” despite all the publicity and negative comments. They talk about mission works and their travels. I personally did not glean a whole lot from the final three chapters; nevertheless, there was much to learn. All in all, I love this book. It taught me so much as to how to joyfully and spiritually live my life. I would recommend this book to anybody, especially girls, who are struggling or not, so that they can also have insight as to how to deal with a struggle or problem that they are working through, or as a bible study book, like I read it.

My say is go read the book.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen! McKenna! I heart her.

Here’s the Amazon link to the book if  you’d like to buy it for your own daughters…or your granddaughters…or yourself…or your son…or your hair lady.

Whatever, man

Growing Up Duggar



I’ve Been Reading Again: Casting Off


One of the benefits of 60+ hours per week of cheer practice, cheer pictures, cheering at games, cheering at tournaments, and cheer clinics is that the cheer mom (that’s me) has lots of time to catch up on her reading.

This book was given to me by my mother, an avid knitter.

I mean, seriously. The woman knits while we are in line to ride the Sea Screamer for the love of all that’s holy! She’s avid.

When she gave it to me to read, I thought, “Oh, great. Another one of her knitting books.  It’ll be full of knitting words, and knitting stories, and knitting lovers, and knitting yarn, and knitting”…you get the point. “And I don’t even knit!”

Then, I sighed and considered my options, which consisted of (a) watching my daughter get thrown up into the air by her teammates yet again, or (b) giving the book a try.

I went with (b). And I’m so glad I did. Prior to writing about it, I’ve actually read the book twice, and I highly recommend it.

The story is about a woman who travels from her home in California to a small island off the coast of Ireland for two, overt purposes: to gather information for a book she wants to write about the ganseys (sweaters) knitted there, and to be with her college roommate, who is Irish and about to give birth.  In tow is her six-year old daughter, her video camera, and her other baggage. Her ‘other baggage’ consists of her past…a past which haunts her by day and tortures her by night. During the course of the story, she faces  down her biggest demons with the help of Fionn, an island native and a redheaded, fiddle-playing man.

The book is decidedly Irish in flavor, a perfect, easy read for a cold night, a warm fire, and the upcoming holiday, one of my very favorites.

Go forth and read!

The luck o’ the Irish to ya,



I Did It. And I’m Sorry.

I’ve gone and done something. You had your chance to stop me. I asked for your opinion.  Even still, I will apologize in advance for subjecting you to this post.

I read the sequel.

I wasn’t planning to. It caught me completely off-guard. I was trolling along in life, working on my Bh.D. a little at a time, when the book tour show snuck up on me.  It was all downhill from there. Once I saw all those people lined up to get their book signed, I had to know what was in that book!

Here’s the skinny: the book covers the arrested-for-capturing-Andrew-Luster (the lowest of the low jerk) days, as well as the use-of-an-inappropriate-word-caught-on-tape timeframe. It truly is a sequel to the first book, which covers his life from, well, birth, until the time his show got rolling.

While you may still be judging me and are most likely judging Beth, I continue to be amazed by how savvy she is in business terms. After having read two of these books, here’s what I know: he wouldn’t be half of what he is without her. In fact, he’d probably be in a Mexican jail right now.

Proof that an effective, though vocabularily challenged, helpmate can change the course of a man’s life.  It’s what we do.

Bottom line: my theology differs greatly from theirs. However, few people go toward, spend time with, or ever touch the untouchables. It’s what they specialize in. I can’t recall a day this year that I’ve spent any amount of time with the untouchables.

Who, then, is doing it unto the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40)? Them or me?

Read the book and be duly chastised.



Elfis: The Book, People!

Awhile back, I told you about Elfis, the Elvis-like Elf that visits our home every night between December 1 and December 23. He revvs us up for the big event on Christmas Eve.

Y’all are never gonna believe what I’ve found now!

The Diva and I went to our local library last week and there, sitting right on top of a Christmas book display, was this:

Unbelievable! For once, I was sure I’d had an original idea (naming our little buddy after the King), only to find out, once again, that somebody had already thought of it.

Blue Christmas, indeed.

The book contains the age-old tale of how an awkward elf, once the dunce of the North Pole, saves Christmas.

Much like this guy:

“Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”

“Is there sugar in syrup? Then, yes!’

The kicker is that, in the book, he has to turn into Elvis in order to do it. Don’t worry. He’s young Elvis, not the old, puffy one.

Basically, the dork, after being kicked out of the toy factory and, consequently, turned into Elvis by a giant snowman, returns to the factory in order to sing the very-behind elves into a toy-making fever that helps them meet their quota.

In short, the sequins make the difference between no Christmas and Christmas.

They usually do. At least that’s been my experience.

Since I’m in Memphis for the holiday, I think I’ll go on over to the King’s house and see what’s up.  Besides, there’s a Krispy Kreme down the street from there, and I do have priorities.

Counting down till the fat man comes,


If You’re Not Watching Cake Boss, You’re Missing the Boat

Here’s what my mom and I like to watch together.

Right, so I realize that most moms and daughters bond over quilting or tea or shopping.

But my mom and me, we bond over television. It’s what we do.

Do NOT judge us.

If you haven’t watched The Cake Boss, you’re not in the know. Not only does he make phenomenal cakes, but his bakery is family run.

Families argue.

And that’s just good television.

Hilarious. Honest. Real. Unbelievable.

Watch it!

It Had to Happen

A few weeks ago, you may remember me making a rather startling self-disclosure.

Shortly after making said announcement, my coworkers began to come out of the canine closet, revealing to me one at a time, that they, too, were Bh.D. voyeurs.

I’m so thankful I’m not sitting in my lawn chair all alone while I tune in to the train wreck every week.

Well, I would be if I had cable.

Anywho, one of my most precious and best dressed coworkers brought me a gift once she learned of my love for the Dog.

This is what she brought me:

And I read it.

The whole thing.

Do not judge me. I was sitting by the stinky man on the airplane, and I had to have something compelling enough to keep my attention off my overactive gag reflex. Seriously, he smelled like B.O., feet, halitosis and something else that resembled a fish cannery but I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Oh, and moth balls.  You’ve seen Pigpen on Charlie Brown?  This man didn’t look like him. In fact, he was very nicely dressed. But every time he moved, I smelled that funky cloud that surrounds little Pigpen. It was like he had his own, stinky atmosphere  I wanted to just say, “Be still, dude. You’re stirring up the funk!” And if that’s not enough, he was a big fella too.  Took up all of his seat and half of mine. By the time we got to San Diego, my back was in a pinch from leaning over the whole flight.

I spent the whole flight dreaming of being old. Old people can say whatever they want and nobody clocks them because they’re old and people think they’re supposed to be nuts.  I want to be nuts.

Oh, wait. I already am.  Shoot.

You can see why I resorted to drowning my sorrows in this literary masterpiece. It was either that or lose my already questionable mind. Besides, one can only read the American Way magazine so many times before dementia sets in.

After having read several pieces of very educational and classic literature, I can definitively say, this is not one of them.

Although it was a New York Times #1 bestseller.

So, here’s my synopsis of things I learned about Dog that I didn’t know before:

  • He quit school in the 7th grade and never went back.
  • He’s earned and lost more money than I’ll ever see in my lifetime.
  • He’s a politician, a slick-talker.  He’s got street smarts that no book can teach.
  • His ideas of faith and God are very different from mine.
  • He’s the king of the comeback.

Oh, and Beth’s about the smartest woman alive. Don’t let her blonde hair and big bail jumpers fool you. Homegirl’s got skills.

Note: in our family, we call boobs bail jumpers. This is the story of how it happened.   One day, the preteen, cute, but still flat-chested Diva was wearing a shirt that kept falling down in the front.

Me: Pull up your shirt. Your girls are going to get out.

Diva: Mom, I don’t have any girls.

Me: We need to put some socks in there then.

Diva: Moooooommmmmm. Seriously?

Me: I’m serious. Those things are going to jump out.  Like people jumping bail.

Diva:  Oh, now I’ve got bail jumpers?

Me: No, but you will one day, honey.

Note 2: We use the terms bail jumpers and bond jumpers interchangeably when referring to the previously dubbed and, as yet, non-existent girls (read: mosquito bites). Feel free to use it at your house. It’s just one part of a very complicated code.

Should I read his second work?

Gone with the Wind

Big Daddy and I are currently trying to find a house in the nether-regions of East Tennessee.

We have alot of expectations, having lived in California, where the cost of living is so high that we’ve been relegated to a 2-bedroom apartment for the bulk of the time.

We want room to spread out, but we don’t want to pay a bundle. Not too much to ask, right?

Yesterday, while Googling houses, I found this Southern beaut.


I sent it to Big Daddy (a picture via email, not the house), and this is the exchange that followed:

BD:  This one kinda looks like Terra.

Me:  Tara? Yes, it does.
(I can’t help it. I’m an English teacher! Big Daddy loves me anyway.)

BD:  As God is my witness, I will never go hungry again…..
(and so it begins…)

Me: I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies!

BD: Let me get you the cake Ms. Scarlet…

Me: Frankly, my dear,…
Oh, nevermind.

BD:  You win… :0
This is not a competition though.
(He always says that when he’s losing. I love him anyway.)

WARNING: Explicit content forthcoming. Stop reading now if you have delicate sensibilities.

Me: That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.

BD: You are right!
(I don’t think this was in GWTW, but I could be wrong. I’m thinking BD got carried away.)

So, I’ve made a decision. I’ve decided to live life, from now on, using a series of quotes from GWTW.

This should last only a few hours or so, so bear with me.