Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Less than 1000

I had the rare opportunity to spend time surfing the internet over the last two weeks. Normally- like today- my time is limited by school and other responsibilities. I had heard about Emily and her blog. I was interested in what she had to say since she claims to be Quiverful. My secondary interest was the fact that she claims to raise her family on less than $1000 a month. Since I have very little income (translation: none) and live in a small space (120 sqaure feet shared with another person), her blog sounded like a good place to pick up pointers. This should be noted because I didn't go to her blog with the intention of critiquing her. I also thought I'd be able to sympathize with her because her husband is a student.

What I found made me concerned. Her blog was little more than a cache of recycled bits from various sources, recipes, and cringe-worthy, self-important diatribes on her lifestyle. I'll admit a bias that may not have given me an objective perspective on her life. I see in her what I see in many QF moms who have talked themselves into a life of poverty and constant child bearing. I see, in her over-optimistic, naive attitude, something reminiscient of my mom. For that reason, I don't blame Emily for some of her choices. She's bought into the promises of Proverbs 31. She truly believes that God will provide for her if she obeys her husband and gives him a quiver full of Godly arrows. However, the more I read, the more I felt like I was being led down a primrose path. She wears poverty like a badge of honor. Emily posts about her poverty being a choice and extolls the virtues of living with less. Making lemons out of lemonade is a good character trait, but what if you weren't given lemons to begin with? What if you had grapefruit or a cornocopia of fruit and turned it down so that you could make that lemonade, while acting like lemons were all you had? Is the trait still noble?

Poverty isn't a joke. It's not an aspiration. Simplicity, frugality, debt-free,...those are all admirable goals. Poverty, especially self-enforced poverty, is stupid. Rampant materialism isn't great, either. I only feel that being poor for bragging rights is a slap in the face to those who are poor due to circumstances beyond their control. It gets worse when you add choiceless children into the equation. Emily has three boys. Like a lot of fledgling QFers, she's got three under four years. This is where my concern started.

As I read her blog, I started to think about those boys and what they'd say about their childhood. On the positive side, they have a mother who is home with them and cares for them. I think Emily loves her boys and love can't be bought. It can be misguided. Emily's post about baking soda containing genetically altered cornstarch was well-meaning but totally confusing. Her recipes go beyond the tatertot casserole, taco surprise variants you find in most QF families. It's nutritionaly bereft of value and calories. You can read the comments to see what I mean.

I'm posting the link to her blog because there are a lot of people who see the Duggar philosophy as harmless. Emily and her husband Dan are proof that it can be taken to a devestating extreme. It's madness.


  1. Well stated Ruth! You are amazing!!

  2. Great post Ruth! I am really enjoying your blog and I look forward to reading more :)

  3. Wonderful post! I totally and completely agree with every word you said. It scares me to think of the children's health and what the continuation of this lifestyle may cause them.

  4. I agree completely. I love your blog, but my heart breaks for what you've been through. As a Christian I want to tell you that the God that your family preaches is not the same God that I know and Love. The Jesus I love didn't die on a cross for women to be slaves to husbands that they don't even know or to wear their bodies (which are supposed to be a TEMPLE!) out bearing child after child.

    Sorry, I know that's a bit off topic but I've been thinking about you all day and didn't know where to comment with that :)

  5. Ruth, I found your blog through Sybermoms and Free Jinger. My family was also in ATI and I hated every second of it. I have so much bitterness over it that I need to let go. I've started reading your blog and it's really been encouraging to me. No one can understand the horror of ATI/IBLP/Bill Gothard except those of us who have lived through it. Thank you for your blog. I am going to try to go back and read every post.

  6. CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP. THANK YOU! Emily is...crazy. Sorry but feeding your children flour and water paste and tubes of dollar store ground beef in the name of self-induced poverty are not the actions of a sane person. Well, maybe they sort of are when you are a college student living alone or at least when are not simultaneously ranting about the evils of genetically altered corn. I love your blog Ruth--I escaped from fundie-ism too. You can do this!

  7. Glad you wrote this. Well said, as usual!

  8. I always wonder if this God is only contracted for the western world. I keep seeing photos of God-fearing moms and dads in the third world watching their children starve to death waiting for God to respond to their prayers and provide, as promised. Surely they're quiverful, and they're living with less...

  9. Well said. I worry so much for the health and safety of her children. Plus, they may be okay living on $1000/month now, but what about when the kids get older and need more things? I doubt the money will be there.

  10. I love your blog, found it on Sybermoms. I will continue to read you often!

  11. Thanks for writing this blog Ruth! I also think your comments to Emily are extremely well written and thought out.

  12. Another reader from Sybermoms. Keep it up, know that you have a lot of support out there. This has been fascinating, informative, disturbing, enlightening. Please keep writing.

  13. Ruth,
    Over on LJ, they have a handful of frugal living communities, one being http://community.livejournal.com/poor_skills

    They aren't really the nicest people (IMO), but if you lurk there, you can pick up some really great tips.

  14. A friend of mine writes a money saving blog at
    which is full of great tips. She feeds a family of 5 (not QF) for $400/month.

    Her tips aren't about living in poverty, but getting great deals and stretching dollars so you can save for college/pay down debt, etc.

    Just thought I'd throw that out there since not everyone frugal is crazy.

  15. Ruth,

    I applaud your willigness to heal publicly. Hugs to you!

    I sent a link to your blog and a few others to a young father from our congregation. We have several young families in our church that appear to be QF, though our church (Evangelical Lutheran) is far far from teaching anything of the sort!

    I am not sure what to make of these young families. The father in question is loving, kind, generous, nurturing- he is not even close to ATI! Yet somewhere the idea that having lots of kids = the right religious thing to do seems to have influenced him somewhere.

    Very strange. It's not the sort of thing one can bring up in church (why are you having all these children?) nor bring up at all to someone you don't know well! LOL

    And it appears that older moms like myself are not in their "circle of trust" to quote Dale Gribble from King of the Hill.

    I guess I deserve the lack of respect. Heaven knows I felt superior as a mother to previous generations when mine were young! LOL I was so sure I was going to get it all "right".

    Over the years I have learned that the only way to get it right is to continually reaffirm your love for your children and admit you don't have all the answers and your winging it! =)

    Blessings to you Ruth.

  16. Hi Ruth, I found you through Emily's blog and have to say that i hope you continue to do well for yourself in your new life. I was shocked to discover that you are so young! (2 years younger then myself).

    Now on to Emily's blog.... i really don't know what to think, the more she discloses, the more i wonder if she is thinking things through 100%.
    Her husband either has a LD or is extremely lazy in his writings and apparently his college has no issue with her writing for him? (i have a hard time with that) but i guess the word for it is she is prideful. there is nothing good about being poor, frugal yes but i agree with you...

    I do wonder her about her kids like so many other posters do.. she has 3 babies, 2 of which are under the 50th percentile? That can't be right. I don't think she is giving us the full details on what she feeds her kids or her meals. But the thought that she is buying all her food from the dollar store is kind of gross. I don't always buy the cheapest things because i prefer my veggies to be grown locally(atleast in my own country) and her meat.. yea i wouldn't feed that to my dogs. I wonder how much harm health wise she causing with her children because she doesn't want to buy anything for over a dollar a pound?

    anyways.. keep up the blogging.. i am interested in your adventures (for lack of a better word) in your new life.

    oh and the dating.. have you tried group dating? instead of it being 1 on 1, invite some of your friends to come along with you two that way you will be more comfortable.

  17. Hi Ruth,
    I stumbled upon your blog in my research about the Quiverfull movement. I am a producer for CNN and would love to talk to you about your experiences. I wasn't sure how to contact you other than posting something on your blog. Can you send me an email if you're will to have a brief chat and the time/number to reach you? My email address is: Julie.ONeill@turner.com
    Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

  18. Wow, wow, wow. Just wow. I followed you here from TWoP and just wanted to say that I admire you and really look forward to reading your blog posts.

  19. Yeah, I was reading Emily's blog in the same spirit - some interesting recipes, etc - but this last week, I've had to stop. I don't like watching people make decisions that make the pit of my stomach clench with dread. It was the point that she responded to you saying that nutritional guidelines for young children were meant for the world, and she was feeding them according to God's standards that the wheels really came off the wagon for me.

    Coming from the outside, what helps me understand is when I remember that just because some of these families interpret the Bible themselves, don't follow a charismatic leader outside the home, etc. doesn't mean they won't act like cult followers. I, too, am a big believer in voluntary simplicity and frugality, but there are limits beyond which you're trying to feed your kids on religious fervor instead of actual calories, and that's where it gets scary.

    Also, anonymous at 5:34 pm, I wonder the same thing - I've worked in some extremely poor parts of the world, where it's really obvious that having more babies than you can feed leads to children dying and the whole community suffering. These are not people of little faith; if God provided for the faithful according to the number of babies they had, the entire third world would not be the third world.

  20. You have an amazing story to tell and I have enjoyed reading it. Great post- I think a lot of people have been trying to tell Emily that but she's not going to listen.

  21. I stumbled across your blog doing research for mine and keep bumping into you (FreeJinger, Sybermom). I appreciate your insights and commentary.

    I haven't read all of your posts, so forgive me if this is a repeat, but I am curious if you see VF and Doug Philips as dangerous as Gothard?

  22. Well said, from the meat tubes to the poverty to the somewhat silverish lining. When I have the time and the courage I'll delve into the blog.

    I like http://community.stretcher.com/forums/ for tips on living frugally (but not insanely!) I take you live in a "true dorm" -- meaning the best you have in terms of a kitchen is a can opener, a mini fridge and a microwave? There's a lot you can do with just those tools, though. Example: you can actually nuke an egg, so long as you thoroughly grease the cookware first and make sure you pierce the yolk. (Trust me; BOTH are critical!)

    -- tatortotcassie

  23. I think Emily and her husband Dan have bought into a lie. There is nothing wrong with living well. There is nothing wrong with seeking government aid, since it is available. I don't agree with government funding stupidity but she could use it. At least the kids would get some decent food, such as milk, cheese, peanutbutter, bread, cereal, etc.

    By the way, I know of a young lady who just walked away from her Vision Forum family. She is so much happier! Bill Gothard and Vision Forum do team up and the Duggers have been to their conferences. So stinking dangerous.

  24. Thank you for posting a link to Emily's blog. It disturbs me greatly that her family is eligible for foodstamps and WIC and they do neither.

    I came out of the Historic Seveth Day Adventist movement back in the late 90's. The final straw for me was being told that God gave me a child with autism because of sin in my life. The pressure to continue have baby after baby was unbearable. I had four when I left..

    Bill Gothard and the Vision Forum philosphy is very similar to Historic SDA. The Duggars may think they are witnessing to the world. I see their witness as more of a cautionary tale about the snares of rabid fundamentalism.

  25. Hi Ruth.

    I am still reading! Just am the worse commenter!

    Wow. I still can't get over the fact we blogged about the same site within hours of the other and completely independently.

    I must say, that you are doing really on your journey out of fundamentalism. When I left I didn't know much about blogs etc, so am finding it really interesting to see the difference/impact it makes on you/your journey. The bad days get fewer and farther in between, I promise.

    I don't how popular AiG was in your group, but I know in mine it was big stuff. Ken Ham is so concerned about the rates of young people leaving conservatism he has written a book and blog about it: http://alreadygonebook.wordpress.com/. Does he ever think that they are leaving because of legitimate reasons? No, he puts it down to poor sunday schooling etc.

    Sigh. So much cr*p really.

    Keep strong girl. You will get there!!!

  26. Hi, Ruth.

    I've been following your blog for a while now but this is my first comment. I, too, was struck by what I found on Emily's blog. Although some of her recipes without a doubt provide solid nutrition (i.e. Sunday 'Ham') I seriously worried about some of her other ideas (like feeding a family of five on a quarter of a spaghetti squash). Those concerns, however, have already been thoroughly hashed out by others here.

    What intrigued me was the plan she laid out for her family's future, several elements of which do not appear to be very well thought-out. They plan to purchase a mobile home because they foresee having to move frequently. However, "mobile" homes are not like recreational vehicles - they are not built for frequent moves. They also degrade rather quickly, especially under the wear and tear of a large family.

    Then there's their plan to purchase land for a 'homestead'. First, this seems to contradict the rationale for the "mobile" home. If you're going to own property you would have to sell in order to move, why not have a home on it? Second, owning and farming your own land is an admirable goal and a nice hobby (that I myself indulge in), but it requires a substantial investment that she seems oblivious to. A compact tractor with attachments to mow the lawn and prepare soil will probably run at least $10,000 used, for the very frugal. Unless she or her husband is a mechanic I wouldn't recommend anything that would sell for less. To actually produce enough food to make up a major portion of the family diet would require much more. You could probably buy a couple of tricked-out BMWs, his-and-hers Rolexes, and a dozen pairs of Prada shoes with matching Gucci handbags for the kind of capital investment put in by a professional farmer.

    I then clicked through to her husband Dan's blog, "Dan's Rant". Then I wished I hadn't. You see, it appears that their plan is for Dan to obtain a pastorate and support the family through his ministry. There's one little detail they seem, unfortunately, to have missed: Dan can't write. Now, I'm no preacher (full disclosure: I am in fact an atheist), but I do have some understanding of the skill set involved. A preacher's work is grounded in language: the analysis of text, and production of his own text, the public delivery of inspiring speech. It's not just that he may have some undiagnosed learning disability that give him problems with spelling and grammar. Indeed, he indicates that he writes out his work beforehand and dictates it for Emily to type up. The problem is deeper than that.

    His sentences lack variety, both in length and in structure. He changes topics in the middle of paragraphs. Beneath these stylistic shortcomings he reveals an equally inadequate level of analysis, research, and insight. It is, to put it simply, the level of writing expected of seventh-graders. If he were actually a brilliant orator whose genius was masked in written media by a learning disability, you would think he would skip the first step in his process and simply dictate to his wife extemporaneously.

    Their family plan rivals the strategic genius of Napoleon's advance on Moscow, with three little boys stuck marching in the front ranks. I worry for this family.

  27. Typical QF idiots. I just love their plan: save all you can and invest it in a worthless piece of sh*t. Why are so many debt-free adherents so clueless about money? I couldn't care less if they aspire to poverty. My problem is when they hold it up as some sort of godliness standard. If they were honest they'd admit they're poor because they're too stupid and proud to do what it takes to provide a decent life for themselves and their kids. Shame on Emily and her raving lunatic husband.

  28. Ruth, thank you for addressing the Emily Situation. I saw your comments to her and noted that, sadly, several others attempted to defend her.

    I see so much courage in you! You have a lot of support in cyber space.

    Take care, looking forward to reading your next post.


  29. I got similar vibes reading Emily's blog. It seems like she's proud of her poverty, that it somehow gives her a sense of superiority i.e. look at how great I am because I can live on so less. It's a bit of subtle bragging. I, too, feel for the children. They are young now, and young children generally don't require very many material things. However, what's going to happen when they start growing older and socializing with other kids their own ages? What happens when they get older and think about college? I seriously doubt a Wal-Mart salary is going to pay for those college educations. I worry for these children almost as much as I worry for the Duggar kids.

    Once again, I have to say "bravo" to you. You've managed to hit the nail on the head yet again with your insight into a world that I could never imagine. And I must say that in the months that I have been reading your blog (I've been following since the beginning), I have seen a positive change with your insight and analysis. I see your courage growing. I know that this blog is a form of therapy for you, and I just thought you should know that I think it's working. Once again, Bravo Ruth!

  30. I know the point of your post was Emily's blog but I can't say much more than what has already been said. Their situation makes me so sad but its of their own making.

    Do you coupon, Ruth? It took a while but my sister in law got into it and can get a lot of stuff for free or pretty close to it! There are a lot of blogs out there that can help!

    If you can, invest in a blender or find one for free on craigslist. After my ramen phase at school I went to smoothies and was much happier and healthier. Plus the ingredients can be pretty cheap!

    My guy was raised in a way similar to yours and I know how tough it was for him to get used to 'the real world'. It'll become easier for you, it just takes time!

  31. What I see is she is so worried about getting gm foods so she does not buy things with corn or gm wheat. but she buys the cheapest meat and those cows and pigs and chickens have been feed that corn she does not want and all kinds of antibiotics and such to raise them fast.

  32. To follow on doggie's comment about her avoidance of gmo corn, to the point she is making her own baking powder, yet she thinks the 'ground meat' chubs are just fine? Its not only that the animals that go into that meat are feed all sorts of GMO corn, but that ground meat falls under the USDA labeling, not FDA. There are a lot of things allowed in meats, particularly those chubs of ground meat that she so readily uses, that contain corn. I happen to know, as I am extremely allergic to corn & corn derivatives. Citric acid, latic acid just to name a few. But because they are used as 'process agents' they don't show up on the label.

    Does anyone believe the meat in those chubs is the same as what our local butchers use to grind fresh? If you want to get an idea of what goes into them, check out this article from the New York Times, which focus on the danger of E Coli in preground meats: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/health/04meat.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&th&emc=th
    Gee,, meat coming from 4 slaughter houses (3 different states, one from Europe):
    ~50/50 fatty edges sliced from better cuts of meat from a plant where some 2,600 cattle are slaughtered daily and processed in a plant the size of four football fields
    ~from a plant that specializes in dairy cows and bulls too old to be fattened in feedlots (tough old cows)
    ~trimmings from a slaughterhouse in Uruguay
    ~and the kicker- final source was a supplier that turns fatty trimmings into what it calls “fine lean textured beef” by processing trimmings not otherwise usable by warming, removing the fat centrifuge and treats the remaining product with ammonia to kill E. coli

    That is the garbage that goes into that cheap meat. For me personally, I could never bring myself to buy it even if I didn't a corn allergy. I too have to eat on a very strict budget, but there is a difference between inexpensive food and cheap garbage, IMHO. Because of my situation, I only buy ground meat on occasion at a couple stores that have real butchers, though most of the time I buy meat in larger cuts & either grind it myself or cook it in ways that don't require grinding (pulled pork or beef, which can be used in place of ground meat in tacos for example). She has her $1.50/lb rule for meat...I can say that even with having be careful of which stores I buy my meats from (no chicken/pork with stuff injected into the meat for moistness, etc), I too stick to the same price range without buying dollar store or WalMart chubs of ground 'meat'.

    A few other ingredients she uses caught my eye, as far as the corn goes:
    ~white vinegar in her laundry- made from corn 99.9% of the time in the US
    ~vanilla- cheap imitation vanilla extract is made from corn alcohol, caramel food coloring from corn and either corn syrup or corn dextrose for sweetening
    ~stevia in nearly everything- I can almost guarantee its in a dextrose or maltodexttrin base in power form.
    salt- if she is using iodized table salt, it likely has dextrose in it...take a look at the label the next time you get a chance
    canned tomatoes- nearly all have citric acid from corn added

    I could go on, but I think you guys get at what I'm talking about-lol...and its not that I think corn is bad for everyone, but its ironic that she makes a big deal about.

  33. I was one of the people who defended her on the meat thing, honestly. There are better options for sure, for people who aren't completely cornered - but look at where she buys all her food. She buys it from an ethnic grocery within walking distance, or from the place her husband works. They have one car and they can't afford much gas. I don't agree with how she got where she is in life - the mother of three, living on $1000 a month, with no real prospects and a husband who won't allow them to accept any kind of government aid, which means even if she wanted to work, no daycare - and I sincerely hope she finds her way out, loosens up, nurses the baby for long enough to realize that she can't live in an RV if she has any more kids, etc. But roping her around with more strictures just doesn't seem... helpful. Whether or not th stupid beef is long-term healthy, it's keeping soul and body together right now, and the woman is working really freaking hard to make everyday life even marginally survivable. Sending her back to the kitchen to try even harder, instead of slowly trying to tempt her out into the real world, seems.... counterproductive.

  34. My question is this: if they won't accept anything from the goverment, then will they accept something from the church they go to? Or other fellow believers. Every church I went to had a food kitchen, and we fed the poor that way. It doesn't matter if she is trying to debt-free, the thing is that those children need to be fed well. Little ones require more calories than we bigger folks do, and well...it won't kill them.

  35. purpleshoes-

    Emily is the one who wants to avoid "evil GMO's", but only when it seems convenient or when it supports her unusual ideal of healthy eating.

    You mention that she has access to WalMart, where her husband works, and an ethnic food store within walking distance. That is not a bad combination- better then what I have, actually in a small town of 3000, WalMart is 15 miles away, even further for ethnic grocery stores, which I would like to utilize more often if I could. Most ethic grocery stores have very reasonably priced meats in much less processed states then typical American grocery stores. I'm not suggesting she forgo anything but grass feed meats, but look for ways to find healthier options that are already readily available to her for the same or even less cost.

    I did take the time to look up the brand of Stevia she uses, NuStevia Powder, which does include corn maltodextrin:
    "Where does Maltodextrin come from? The maltodextrin NuNaturals uses as an ingredient in NuStevia™ White Stevia Powder™ is made from corn.

    How is Maltodextrin made?
    Corn is made into slurry (corn mush)
    It is then liquefied
    The liquid undergoes an acid/enzyme conversion
    The liquid goes through filtration and a carbon treatment.
    The liquid is then evaporated.
    The condensed liquid is now spray dried and separated. One of the products separated out is maltodextrin."

    So she & her family are eating a lot more corn per day in their stevia then they would from baking powder. My problem is not with what she eats, but how she can be so hypocritical about her use of various products & how defensive she becomes when anyone suggest anything else.

  36. Returned here and see the discussion is still on. Andrea Yates snapped after too long in an RV full of little kids. Yes, they were living in a house when she drowned the kids, but before that they'd been one Lord-lovin' big happy family living on less and less...... Sad. I try to be positive on Emily's blog when I can though. I think she's pretty cut off from adult conversation. Even stuck home with 3 well-planned kids, with a good income can isolate a Mom after all.....I do worry about her and the kids.....

  37. Ruth-

    I want to commend you on your blog & for making such a break with how you were raised, even though it must have been difficult. Coming from a large Irish Catholic family, I was talking to my Mom about the QF movement last night. She did have her first six kids in six years, but this was back in the 50's & very early 60's. I came along 10 years as a surprise when she was 45. She reminded me of a book I have from my aunt, her sister, on trying to get pregnant back then; my aunt unfortunately never did have any children. I can tell you from glancing through that book, it is no wonder- they really didn't understand a woman's cycle & when she would be most fertile. It is interesting to see the difference in 50-60 years and how 'big families' are no longer an accident, but actually planned for & sought after by some.

  38. Hi.

    I've only read a few of your posts but I already want to say I'm glad you're writing and speaking out about what life can be like for some QF families. When I read about what you said about poverty, especially the part about making lemonade when God had given you a cornacopia of fruits and you toss them all out to just make lemonade, it reminded me of part of this speech http://harvardmagazine.com/commencement/the-fringe-benefits-failure-the-importance-imagination
    where the speaker commented on how poverty was not something to be thought of romantically. It is hard and can be awful at times. I'm sharing it, hoping it'll bless you like it did me.

    Those of us who grew up upper middle class whites in America tend to idealize it as something noble. Then some of us turn around and inflict that "noblity" on our children, leaving them little of the choices we were given and before we know it, it's too late to dig ourselves out. I've been poor plenty of times (and am now) and it's not the end of the world. But it's not necessarily something to be strived (striven?) for either.

  39. Ruth, first I am glad I stumbled upon your blog. I have been intrigued by this QF movement since stumbling on the TWoP Duggar thread. I have since followed your blog to Emily, aka "The QF Trainwreck." I so much fear for her children. She is so prideful and defensive at the same time, a little "know it all." She recently had a close call with her eldest son and the more she posts, the more I wish I didn't know about her.

    Ruth, you are an inspiration. I am proud to "know" you, as it were.

  40. Emily is a little nutty, yeah. OK, a lot. As previously said, that cheap meat is cheap for a reason. But did you see her post that she made over $1000 from her blog in January? So much for "Under $1000."

  41. Just you know, when you link to blogs like Emily's, (and if she knows how to use her blog stats), she can follow the link back to your blog. Same with any QF/ATI ppl you may link to. You may want to break the links so that your readers have to cut-and-past and then remove the spaces so that you don't get a bunch of trolls coming in to your little corner of the web & trying to take you down.


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