“There’s nothing like fruity pebbles with raw milk. Green tea ice cream is the best, especially in the summer! Let’s see, French fries, I have a thing for French fries. And meat, I love meat. I dance. I spin down the aisles at Walmart. My room is perfectly cluttered. Favorite bands right now are Ben Howard, the Lumineers, and the Kopecky Family Band. Christmas is my favorite because it’s magical and when family gathers! I love to watercolor. I journal. My journal is beautiful and I love sitting down to something pretty. It helps me be productive and brings me back down to earth.”
Hopscotch coffee shop is playing an upbeat song from the Lumineers. How perfect, this is one of her favorite bands. Margaret means Pearl. Cullin means handsome. This is the woman I am interviewing today. Margaret Cullin Dodson walks in carrying her laptop, backpack, and pre-made protein shake. The woman means business. Since I know Margaret already this means she is obviously on the go. Working two jobs in Virginia’s Old Town Winchester is enough for anyone to handle, but Margaret somehow also manages to squeeze in ballet classes, coffee dates, college prep courses, and her numerous personal creative pursuits, including (but not limited to) painting, knitting, crocheting, writing, gardening, and baking.
She’s wearing vans and skinny jeans, with a jean vest-hoodie jacket, and minimal makeup. She doesn’t need it. Her long, wavy brown hair and big, dark brown eyes are inviting and friendly, curious, and intense. Urban adventurer. Young beauty.
After ordering our coffees we begin a funny, interactive interview, full of laughs. I know so much of this already, but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful to hear the full story of “Marg,” a chosen nick-name for Margaret by many of her dear friends and family.
Emy: “So tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?”
Margaret: “Probably where I work. I work at a coffee shop in Winchester, Virginia called, The Espresso Bar & Café. I’m a barista there. I also work at a boutique on the edge of town called, The Purple Fern.”
Margaret has just mentioned two of the coolest places to work. As a recent Winchester dweller I remember walking into the Espresso Bar and wanting to work there. Pretty pastries always stocked, specialty chocolates and cookies on the counter, and the sweet smell of coffee is enough to entice anyone, but this particular coffee shop had an atmosphere of small-town friendship, without losing a polished, classy vibe that made it the perfect place to sit and journal, or simply stop in for coffee and a friendly face. The Purple Fern is a creative music box of new treasures and trinkets, dazzling displays, and the same friendly, welcoming feel. I’ve never been to a boutique that I wanted to copy and make my home. You can’t help but buy something.
Emy: “What’s your favorite part of working?”
Margaret: “I love the interaction with people, getting to know people…I am constantly learning new skills (at The Purple Fern) about how to own a business, how to order things, making things for the shop, and my boss pours into me. I’ve picked up a lot of skills just from working there!”
Emy: “What would be a normal day in the life of Margaret Cullin Dodson?”
She laughs. Who gets asked that on a day-to-day basis?
Margaret: “Well…um. Let’s see, I’ll wake up in the morning, jump out of bed, depending on what I have to do that day I’ll get ready to go. If I have to work I’ll usually get up pretty early! If I’m going to the Espresso Bar I’ll just mentally prepare myself (no kidding, coffee is hard work!) and I’ll spend some time with God, usually while I’m doing my makeup. I go to work for a couple hours during the day, then spend time with friends, although I am usually always working on something, journaling, reading my bible, or reading a new book. I’ve started a reading list that a friend just gave me. I am currently reading a farming book called, “The Dirty Life.” If I am reading a book and not getting anything from it it’s hard to keep going for me. Right now I’m learning about harvesting maple syrup, the process…so, how to run a farm, machinery, stuff like that.”
The woman is so incredibly well dressed (all the time) that you’d never guess, but she goes on to explain one of her many dreams is owning her own farm! Get to know her and it makes sense. She is beautiful and thoughtful towards her outer appearance, but mud doesn’t scare her and challenges are her friend.
Emy: “What are the highlights of your day?”
Margaret: “Oh, man! I am trying to have a different mindset on how to enjoy my day. Part of that is (enjoying) the first customer who comes in the coffee shop in the morning, just enjoying giving that person the first cup of coffee, the sun is just coming up, shining through the windows, and it’s just you in there. You’re preparing all this coffee for the rest of the day. You’re just sitting there, hanging out, doing the few things you need to get done, then that first person walks in and you just gave them a cup of coffee!”
The significance of this phenomenon is not lost on me. As an avid coffee drinker myself, I understand the sheer joy of the recipient.
Margaret: “There’s no stress yet, you’re simply enjoying that you just created something for someone.”
Moving on, we sip our coffees and I ask about her ambitions and goals.
Margaret: “I love agriculture, using what God’s given me to feed my family, being able to rely on a garden.”
Emy: “So, you have a gardening goal?”
Margaret: “A gardening goal? Oh yeah! Oooh yeah! I’d love to have a BIG garden this summer and be able to do a share at some point, have people buy shares from my garden, and all of the extra produce I’ll use to keep building off of the money to put back into my garden. I want to be able to give a lot of the produce away to people who need it, the people in the community. I’d love to do that and I’d like to do the same thing with honeybees. I think I’m going to order honeybees in a few days. It’s around… about the time of season. So, I’m going to order honeybees. I think I’m going to get Italian honey bees.”
While she pauses to think of another goal my mind goes back and forth between sweet childhood stories of the “bee keeper” and a traumatic incident when I was 12. The thought of ordering and shipping bees has me stumped.
Margaret: “I have a blog in the works, too. I’ve started a lifestyle blog about the passions I want to pursue. So many things! I’d love to renovate my barn. There is going to be a page of recipes (in the blog) I’ve pulled from Kinfolk and recipes of my own, how to do fashion styling, all kinds of gardening advice, and how my own gardening process is going.”
We are going full speed ahead with goals, ideas, and projects in the works. Her life certainly isn’t boring. So we slow it down a bit as I ask, “What are your life goals?” This takes a bit more time and thought. She pushes her hair back behind her ears, takes a deep breath, and sips her coffee.
Margaret: “My life goals are to raise a family and to cherish a husband. I’d love to get my degree in agriculture or design, or I’d love to be a wedding planner! That’s a big goal. I’ve been practicing violin. I’d love to be better at violin. I’ve been practicing for over a year, but am just now pursuing that again.”
Emy: “Who are some of the most important people in your life?”
Margaret: “My family is constantly supporting and inspiring me. I have two older brothers. One got married last year and one is getting married this year. I have two great parents and almost two sisters-in-law. It’s weird having sisters for the first time, watching my family grow. It’s exciting.”
Emy: “How have they influenced your life?”
Margaret: “My dad has always told me since I was little to truly pursue what you want to and not to hold back. He’s always helped me with my goals. That’s something that’s always been very important to him. Providing . . . he’s always been a good father and a good influence.”
Talking about the ones she loves brings out our most raw moments of the interview. I’ve just uncovered a sacred place, a treasure box of her deepest ties, her deepest loves. She pauses between sentences and is moved by her own words.
Margaret: “My mama. She gives completely of herself, and I look at that, hoping to see it in myself someday. She cherishes her family, and it amazes me how selfless she is in so many ways. She has a deep love for the Lord, and when times get tough she still depends on him. My older brother Reid is incredibly productive. He is always working super hard, and he’ll do whatever he has to to get the job done. He has a lovely wife, Candis! Chris has always been a mentor to me, ever since I was a little girl. He’s always been a very important part of my life and the way I’ve been raised. He has a strong love for the Lord. I always see God working in him. He definitely supports my own relationship with God and helps me to pursue him. My sister-in-law, Candis is incredibly sweet. She actually reminds me a lot of my mom in the way she just adores people, making friends wherever she goes. She’s never afraid to talk to anyone. My soon-to-be sister-in-law, Sarah, I’ve known for a lot of my life. She’s definitely a big sister. We’ve fought a ton. I love her, though. She is a powerful woman. If she wants to get something done, she will. She’s a great teacher.”
Emy: “Where would you like to see yourself in five years?”
Margaret: “Hmm, five years…”
I know that’s mean. If someone asked me that question I’d tell them to get back with me in a month.
Margaret: “Well, I’ve always wanted to get married young, so hopefully married!”
Emy: “What’s your dream vacation?”
Margaret: “My dream vacation would probably be to go to Alaska. I’ve always, always wanted to go to Alaska! I’d hunker down in a cabin on the edge of the woods next to a stream, a river, maybe even a lake and (in the summer)! I’d spend tons of time going canoeing, hiking, deep sea fishing, and learning what it’s like to live in an extreme climate."
Emy: “If there were things you’d like people to know about you when you first meet, what would they be?”
Margaret: “Oh! Umm…interesting. Ultimately, I’d like people to see Christ in me and not even have to say anything, for them to just see it and know it. I’m allergic to spinach, so don’t give me spinach. If you mess with me, my brothers will probably kill you. (giggles) At least one of them will. I like a challenge, I always like a challenge.”
Emy: “What are some things that you would like to hear other people describe about you?”
Margaret: “That I’m transparent. That is something that I crave to be seen as. Transparent and honest. That I cherish people and friendships. That once I love you, there’s no really going back. Just that I have a deep love for people. I’d love to think people like my fashion sense. I try to switch it up! I’d love to be seen, at some point, as a good writer! (I should have my first post on my blog soon! ) I’d love to be seen as friendly, healthy. I mean, every girl wants to be beautiful, so I’d love to think that other people think I’m beautiful . . . that I’m beautiful on the inside, not just the outside. Confident, I’d like people to think that I’m confident and wise."
Emy: “Do you know that the things you want other people to know about you are probably the things that are the most true?"
She is quizzical and almost comical in her response, half joking and half serious that she’s not sure what to make of this.
Emy: “Whether those other people know of them or not those are the things of your heart. Our mess ups, our failures, the things we spend the most time thinking about are not the things that determine who we are. All of this is who you are.”
Margaret: “Wow, that’s really interesting. Wow.”
Emy: “You are transparent. You are honest. You cherish people and friendships. You have a deep love for people that you’ll never let go. You have awesome fashion sense. You’re a good writer. You’re friendly and healthy, and you are beautiful. You are confident and wise.”
Margaret: “Wow. Wow!!! That’s so cool. Awww. Oh my goodness. That makes my heart sing.”
Her big, brown eyes fill with the realization that she is the person she has always wanted to be. She is Margaret Cullin Dodson.