34 questions for a 34th birthday

25 February 2021

Happy early birthday to me! I turn 34 on Sunday, and in honor of the occasion, I thought it might be fun to answer 34 questions from you dear ones. But of course, it wouldn’t be Em for Marvelous if I didn’t go a level deeper than necessary on something as simple and common as a modern day Q&A, would it? :)

Though I adore answering any sort of question (school paperwork, surveys, doctor forms, you name it), I’ve always felt a twinge of unease when soliciting or answering “ask me anythings” on Instagram or here. I suppose it feels presumptive to assume anyone would care about these little personal tidbits in a way that a typical, meaty blog post does not.

As I was processing through these thoughts, this passage from 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You popped to mind:

“So I ask myself: Is my digital chitchat aimed or is it aimless; thoughtful or thoughtless; strategic for the eternal good of others or wasted on self-expression? …Am I using my digital chitchat as a way to build into someone (or some online community) with a larger relational goal of edification? These questions and others determine whether my text, tweets, and images are thoughtless fragments or purposeful strategies to point others to find their joy, meaning, and purpose in God.”

A personal Q&A might seem frivolous. But I hope, as with all of the posts I share, you’ll find something here that inspires you, reframes a thought, helps you connect, makes you smile, or yes, points you to find your joy, meaning, and purpose in God. If nothing else, it will be a fun little time capsule for my kids one day :)

Let’s gooooo!

1. Least favorite household task? Wiping down the table/placemats/chairs after meals with young kids. I think it is one of the most Sisyphean tasks of parenthood.

2. Favorite poem? Or just one that is speaking to you in this season? I love this question! For those who don’t know, I was an English major with a Poetry concentration, and my senior honors thesis was an original collection of poetry… maybe someday I will share some of it! For years, I shared favorite poems regularly right here on EFM, and those archives are a beautiful collection of some of my absolute favorites. “Indian Summer at Land’s End” by Stanley Kunitz will forever be my number one.

3. Three words to describe high school Emily? I asked John, and he said nerdy, studious, and bookish (thaaaaaaanks). This was tough, but I would choose confident, earnest, and focused.

4. What are some of the big things you’re saving money for? Right now we’re very focused on finishing our house freedom fund. We’re also just about done setting aside money for our “next car” fund (which we hope to not need for a few years!). On a smaller scale, we’re planning to FINALLY buy an actual bed next month after 8+ years of marriage!!

5. What’s on your dream ice cream sundae? Banana ice cream, chocolate sauce, walnuts/pecans/peanuts, whipped cream, and a cherry :)

6. If money was no issue, what hours/job would you work? If money were TRULY no issue, I probably would not have a job, ha! I would send the kids to half-day preschool and use the extra time to write more consistently here! I still wouldn’t aggressively pursue making it a money-making venture, since that doesn’t feel particularly compatible with my content, style, or inclinations, but I might accept a few more sponsorships-in-kind.

On a more serious note, I could NOT be more grateful for my job or the hours I do work (9-4 now, 9-3 starting this fall) and would find it hard to dream up something better for this stage of my life.

7. Favorite Bible verse or most meaningful verse in this season? Oh gosh, so many good ones! Psalm 103:1-2 in the NLT translation comes to mind first.

8. Are you and John planning to stay in NC a long time? Yes! I expect we will be here through our kids growing up and heading off to start their adult lives. Maybe not in our current home, but in the Triangle. At that point, we hope to be near them, so depending on where they end up, we might move to where they are or have a home base on the coast (Beaufort, SC is somewhere we talk about!) and rental properties near where they live? We shall see!

9. What routines help keep you grounded? My bedtime routine! I head to the bedroom for the evening and ask Alexa to play the Jazz for Sleep playlist on Spotify. After showering, brushing teeth, pajamas, etc., John and I do a ten-minute full-body stretch on the Peloton app. Then I hop into bed and read a chapter in my Bible, then 30-45 minutes of whatever book I’m in the middle of. If I’m really lucky, John will want to read me some sort of essay or article or column he’s come across – my very favorite way to fall asleep, ha!

10. How did you and Lara meet and how did you get your start at Cultivate? Cultivate did not exist when Lara and I met! We connected over a comment I left on the Southern Weddings blog my senior year of college, which turned into her comment on my blog, which turned into a letter I sent to her, which turned into a blog post on SW, which turned into an unsolicited job application, which turned into a job at Southern Weddings after graduation. We’ve been together ever since, from SW to Cultivate and 3 team members to our current 13. A wild and very blessed ride, indeed!

11. Are you a chapstick or a lipstick gal? I slather on Aquaphor several times a day. If I’m feeling fancy, I love the Sugar Lip Balm in Rose and have been known to wear a vibrant lip for special occasions (my favorite being Nars Schiap).

12. How did you meet your husband? We met in middle school and started dating our senior year of high school! He asked me on a date in January and by about March I would say I was certain it was a long-term venture. Full story here!

13. Myers-Briggs type? I have tested as an ISFJ, an ISTJ, and an INFJ, but I don’t think any of them quite captures me! I do strongly identify with the Enneagram Type 5.

14. Do you speak any other languages, and if so, can you tell us a story about it? Yes! I speak a little bit of French (I took it in high school and college). I actually convinced John to take French 1 with me our senior year, even though we had only been dating for about a week! We went on to take French together in college, too. One of the only regrets of my life is not studying abroad, though I likely would have chosen England over France!

15. What is the hardest thing about living away from family? First and foremost, it is missing the little, casual, routine moments. Sure, we are able to experience some of those when parents come to visit (often for several days at a time), but there’s no weekly Wednesday breakfast with Dad before work or Sunday dinner tradition or Thursday afternoons with the grandparents. It is an onslaught of togetherness (which can sometimes be overwhelming for this introvert) and then nothing.

Another thing that’s hard is that most of our good friends’ parents do live in the area, because they grew up here. So not only are we set apart because we don’t have the built-in childcare or together time that they do, but their schedules are often booked up because they have more family activities to accommodate. That can feel a little lonely.

16. What is a benefit to living farther from family? I wrote about this here, but I would say the freedom and space to establish our own norms, traditions, and rhythms.

17. What will you ALWAYS order if it’s on a menu? I am extremely susceptible to chicken and broccoli alfredo… but the real answer is any sort of chocolate lava cake.

Stay tuned for part two tomorrow! And thanks for submitting your questions, friends – considering how much I love answering them, it’s really like a birthday present for me :)

I’d love for you to chime in – how would you answer one of these questions? Or what is something we have in common?

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Kelly Strawberry
February 25, 2021 7:27 am

John’s answer to the high school Em….LOL!!!

Abigail Gray
February 25, 2021 7:58 am

I loved reading through these, Em! One of your answers that I really identify with is the hardest part of living away from family. My fiancé is in medical school so that dictates where we currently live and his career in medicine will continue to do so for the foreseeable future! I miss the routine moments most and so agree that an onslaught of time with my people and then nothing is HARD as an introvert. When I am with them and feeling a pull for time to myself, I feel guilty, too since our time together is limited! This has been even more extreme in the past year, as the pandemic has meant we aren’t able to see each other nearly as much. I had never read it articulated like that before, so thank you for giving me new language! :)

February 25, 2021 8:56 am

These types of posts are some of my absolute favorites, so you are definitely bringing joy to my day with the post! Happy early birthday and excited for tomorrow!

February 25, 2021 9:19 am

Happy, happy 34th birthday week to you (and me, too – ha!)!!! I love reading others’ random tidbits and thoughts, and I always love learning more about you too, friend! I resonate with how hard it can be to live apart from family for a multitude of reasons… but as one of the only extroverts in our families, I simply can’t get enough of our limited time together. I try to remember and honor their more introverted natures so I’m not too much!
PS: please tell me you’ve tried (and loved) banana pudding ice cream? THE BEST!

February 25, 2021 9:38 am

You helped me realize (at an Articles Club meeting a few years ago) that I was a fellow Enneagram 5 after I had mis-typed as a 2! Being able to learn more about my personality through the Enneagram has been SO helpful over the past few years. That’s a long-winded way of saying I don’t find any of this frivolous! :)

February 25, 2021 9:57 am

I really relate to your thoughts about having family far away! Our closest family is still a 16+ hour drive, which is something I think about a lot as we talk about starting our own little family. I definitely wish we could raise our future children closer to our families. But we’re also so grateful for the opportunity to establish ourselves and our own traditions without the (unintentional) pressures + expectations of living close to home.

February 25, 2021 11:18 am

Ahhhh I love this and learning new things about you! I also love your thoughts about the Ask Me Anything route on Instagram. I posted this last night (not thoughts about it but actually a call out for anyone to ask me anything) and within 5 minutes removed it because it did feel icky and I couldn’t pinpoint why until this post here. Maybe I felt icky because I was using my phone to fill a rare pocket of free time instead of reading / sleeping / etc but nevertheless, your thoughtfulness is so appreciated. Can’t wait to text you some birthday love on Sunday! Xo

February 25, 2021 11:58 am

Aw I loved this Em, and so excited for your birthday celebrations, special lady x

February 25, 2021 3:54 pm

Happy Birthday, Emily!! I’ve loved reading your blog for years now and appreciate how intentional you are with your time, your family and your home. I actually started a recipe binder because of you and am loving it so much. Keeps my eyes (and my kid’s eyes) off a screen at hectic meal prep times and feels like a family treasure I can pass down to my children.
I agree that wiping down the table/placemats after mealtime is the worst… I’m staring at a messy highchair as I type this!

February 25, 2021 6:18 pm

Happy Birthday Emily! This was such a fun post! I loved learning more about you through these questions and reading your thoughts on “ask me anything”. Seeing that on my Instagram Stories always made me uncomfortable since you never know what people will ask.
I also appreciated your answer to “What is a benefit to living farther from family?” and revisiting your posts on that topic. We now live in a different country than the rest of our families and friends, so this past year has been a challenge. It was a good reminder that there are some benefits to being far away!

February 25, 2021 7:34 pm

Hi Emily! Happy Birthday!!
First time commenting but long time follower, I really truly look forward to your posts every week :)
I have a follow up question if you are comfortable answering it (I’m constantly going back and forth about this myself hence the curiosity). What makes you and your family to stay where you are long term over moving closer to home and having the best of both worlds – whilst the kids are still young and are able to adjust fairly smoothly. Other than job opportunities of course!

March 3, 2021 7:50 pm
Reply to  Em

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! Really appreciate it and give me things to consider that I wouldn’t have otherwise :)

February 25, 2021 8:10 pm

Happy early birthday, Em!! I love all these questions (and answers)! Can’t wait for part two :-) Hardest and best part about living far away from family definitely resonated with me. Except we actually don’t have many friends here whose family lives close. I can totally see how that would feel lonely or hard sometimes.

Kristin W
February 25, 2021 9:37 pm

The hard parts of being away from family really resonated with me too! My family lives flying distance so we usually spend 5-7 days at a time visiting. I think we are all introverts and get along well enough that it’s usually just the right amount of time. My husband’s family lives very close and another advantage of far away family is that you are either all there or not. My husbands cousins often spend holidays bouncing around to all their relatives and in-laws etc and we are either here with his family or all with my family. No bouncing!

I also have struggled finding my exact Meyers Briggs! I also have struggled with my enneagram as well. I read once that 9 (what I think I am most of the time) struggle to pinpoint themselves because they can see many sides and see themselves as multiple options. That’s me! I’m never definite on any test, even 5 love languages, ha!

Many birthday wishes to you!! Happy 34!

February 25, 2021 10:44 pm

Happy Birthday! So very grateful for your little genuine, insightful, practical corner of the internet!
The job and family distance question stuck with me as we are in the process of moving where we currently live, by no family, to where my husband grew up, where 75% of his family lives in a 15 min radius. I am very much looking forward to the little moments with them between grandparents, great grandparents (my husband still has all 4 grandparents!!!), cousins, etc. We will be further from my family, which is hard, but I think we have figured out a good setup for visitors in our current home having guest rooms in the basement that give my introverted family the ability to retreat, and have their own space. We’ll ideally find that in our future house (renting for a year because of the crazy housing market!). I’m also relieved to be leaving my job. I haven’t realized how much it’s weighed on me because I like a lot of the people I work with, but your passion for your current job, or your need-no-income situation have made me think what that would ideally mean for me!
Thank you for sharing more about yourself, it’s fun to get to know more about someone who has such sage advice.

Brett Grenert-Fischer
February 26, 2021 1:26 pm

Like many people have responded thus far, I too experience the lose of not living close to (well my) family. I moved to Upstate NY, for my now husband. Having lived many places in my life (including Greensboro, NC) I always felt a little bit like an outsider as most people here in Syracuse are from Syracuse or Upstate NY. While we are blessed to live near my husband’s family and literally minutes from my in-laws who have graciously watched our children over the years there is still a longing to be closer to my family. There is also a sense of guilt that my parents (whom are divorced) do not live close enough to share in the childcare, and we often feel guilty asking my in-laws to watch our kids for date nights etc. as they already watch them everyday while we are at work. Because my in-laws are central to our family it seems unlikely to celebrate big holidays and milestones with my family (who is scattered all over) because Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas if we didn’t go to Nana and Papa’s house. Always seems to be a give a take.

February 27, 2021 12:43 pm

I loved this! I think one of my only regrets is not studying abroad as well. I wish I could study abroad now as an adult lol.

Nichole Winkel
February 27, 2021 6:37 pm

Your answer for hardest parts of living farther away from family is SPOT ON for me. As someone who grew up in the same city as all of my family, I sometimes worry that my children will miss some of those sweet daily moments. But I trust we are where the Lord wants us to be and cherish the time we do get on visits. And my introverted self rejoices a little when the visit is over ????