Welcome to episode three of the Real Life, Real Passion podcast. Today our guest is Cassandra Smith, she is a multi-talented Mom of two. In our interview, she talks about how it’s OK laugh at ourselves and that sometimes we can know whether to develop a talent or not by following authentic laughter.
Cassandra is the CEO of Growing Smith Men, Inc. Party Lite consultant. Actress extraordinaire. Wife. Youth Minister, and whatever else she says “Yes” to.
Being a military spouse she wears a bunch of different hats at different times and she gets to explore different things. She is originally from Colorado, and she just recently turned 34. She’s been married to her husband Paul for 16 years and she has two sons, ages 15 and 12.
Discovery of Talent
When Cassandra was in high school she was in the play, the Crucible, and really enjoyed it. She never pursued acting because life moved on and she was “thrust into adulting”. She didn’t consider acting again for a long time.
Like many Mom’s, she found herself piggybacking off of the interests of her son. In Heidelberg, Germany her son had signed up for a summer camp and the play they were performing was Seussical, Jr. While she was filling out his audition paperwork, she noticed a flyer for upcoming auditions for the play 39 Steps. She is a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, and it caught her attention. She signed up for the audition and looking back she feels like if she would have really stopped to think about what she was doing, she would have never auditioned. But, she thought it would be a lot of fun, so she went for it. The director even gave her a callback.
Cassandra explained that a callback means one of two things: It means the person that they really wanted couldn’t audition on the day that they advertised and they want to give them a legitimate reason to audition after that date, and make it look fair; or you really gave them something that they liked and they truly needed another audition to narrow it down so they can make a decision.
For this particular play, Cassandra was auditioning for a one-woman part. One woman played four different characters. Her husband was proud that she got a call back and encouraged and congratulated her saying, “that’s kind of a big deal.” After that, she started feeling nervous. She went in and did her best at the call back audition. The director ended up choosing another girl, a beautiful talented young lady, who had been with the community for a long time and had performed in the last four plays at that playhouse.
The director pulled Cassandra aside and told her that even though she wasn’t chosen for this particular play, that they would still really like to work with her. For Cassandra, this is what really sparked interest in acting and boosted her confidence in her abilities. Unfortunately, she never got the chance to work with the director because her husband came up on orders and they had to move immediately after that.
It Just Takes Once
The family moved to Ansbauch, Germany with the military. Again, Cassandra stumbled upon a flyer for an audition. This time, for Little Women. She auditioned, and this time was chosen. Little Women was her first play.
Since then, she has that drive, that desire to always try. She loves being on stage and truly views it as a privilege. As long as the director will have her, and even though she still feels like the new girl, she will do it because she loves it.
This year, Cassandra and her family appeared on Hawaii Five O.
The Perfect Role
If Cassandra had the opportunity to pick a role to play, it would be something that really connects with her. There’s not one particular role that she would seek after, she would just want it to be something that truly connected with the human experience. Something that inspires people to make a change or to connect with a part of themselves that is really compassionate or really loving. A role that encourages others to be something better.
Her favorite part about acting is to see the connection between the audience and a character. She looks forward to a role that is challenging, something that makes her work really hard to bring the character to life, and then to see it through to fruition.
“I love so many different things and different people who are a part of all those different things.”
Cassandra draws a lot of inspiration from reading the stories of various saints, two in particular stand out:
St. John Paul II. Saint John Paul the 2nd is a big inspiration for her. The Pope lived an unusually varied life. In fact he was even an actor, and was involved in theater before he became a priest. He had a strong connection people and always expressed incredible and sincere love.
St. Theresa of Calcutta. This remarkable women was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, she would later become known as Mother Theresa. Mother Theresa is known for her charity, unselfishness, and missionary work. She dedicated much of her life to the service of the poorest of the poor.
These two saints are great sources of inspiration for her. However, she says that “every person that I have a positive interaction with inspires me in some way.”
“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson
It’s OK to Laugh
The Elephant Man, was the last play that Cassandra was in. It’s set in 1800s England, and the Elephant Man is building a model of the church across from the hospital from where he is staying. He’s building this cathedral, and because of his condition, he doesn’t have the full use of his hands or his body. He has a conversation with the doctor about how his model is a copy of the original which leads to how we are a copy of the original, meaning that we are made in the image and likeness of God. The elephant man sort of jests and says, “well, maybe God should have used two hands.”
This part of the play spoke to Cassandra because it addresses the reality of how we see the world. “We see flaws where God sees none.”
Sometimes in life situations are “laugh or cry”. But humor and laughter are essential to finding joy and happiness in life. It’s OK to poke a little fun at our situation and laugh.
One of Cassandra’s favorite things is to work as a youth minister. Recently, she conducted a retreat for High Schoolers about the theology of the body, which discusses the concept of who you are, how you’re made, and why that’s wonderful. It also adds insight to why we are so intently focused on relationships. She gives the youth and the adults a copy of Theology of His Body / Theology of Her Body by Jason Evert. Jason Evert is one of the leading experts of the theology of the body.
This is one of those books where right side up is one version, and if you flip it over, it’s the other version. It’s a clever way to address our curiosity as human beings. We naturally want to know about our own gender, but we also want to learn about the opposite. This resource helps bring understanding to who we both are and addresses curiosity in a healthy way.
- Theology of His Body / Theology of Her Body by Jason Evert
Cassandra also reads a lot of parenting books. In fact, her most lent out books are:
- Screamfree Parenting by Hal Edward Runkel
- Parenting With Love And Logic by Foster Cline, MD and Jim Fay
Another great book that Cassandra loves to share is the Happiness Project. She likes this book for healthy habits, organization, and behavior modification… “It helps you really understand yourself. So then you can organize your environment in a way that supports your greatest opportunity for happiness.”
For Professional Development Cassandra recommends books by Simon Sinek.
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Also by Simon:
- Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t
- Together Is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration
- Find Your Why: A Practical Guide to Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team
Cassandra is on a never-ending journey to try to discover what success is for herself. Success seems to be something that is fluid, and ever changing in her life.
Growing up the message that she received from her family was of total independence. She was told that if she wanted to travel, to go and find a job where she would have the ability to travel wherever she wanted to. She was told that she didn’t have to ask permission, and that she should follow her dreams without relying on a man to take care of her. With that background, she became very career driven, and then… the military happened.
Before she was married she wanted to be a Marine, but God had other plans. She still suffers a bit from what she calls “boot envy”. But she says, “the best way to make God laugh, is to tell him your plans.”
Instead of joining the military herself, her husband joined the military, she graduated from school, they moved to Virginia, and they had their first son all in one year. At that point, success became the ability to survive the craziness of that year, and finding ways to let go of what she had previously held to be the definition of success for herself.
Right now, she feels like she is on a journey and is along for the ride. She is simply excited to see where life takes her.
First Successful Person That Comes to Mind
Cassandra is really proud of her husband. When he feels inspiration, he follows it. She loves that he will go after what he’s been inspired to do. He is also patient and loving with her. Cassandra labels herself as kind of an all or nothing kind of girl (feast or famine), and he is able to support her as well as find balance and reach for the things that he has been inspired to do as well.
The Best Advice She Was Ever Given
Cassandra’s marriage is a significant aspect in her life. She contributes their success to the love and support of others as she and Paul have worked to build a life together. The best advice she was ever given was that marriage is not 50/50, it’s 100/100. You both have to give 100%. Every single day you choose your spouse.
That advice is empowering. She feels that Paul chooses her every day, and she chooses him every day. Knowing this has helped strengthen them, especially during the times when it was hard. Because marriage isn’t easy, it can be really really tough. But with each other and the love and support from those around them, they have made it work.
“My biggest obstacle is me.”
An ongoing challenge is trying to release perfectionism. Cassandra struggles because she sets very high expectations for herself, sometimes really impossible expectations. She has found that through writing and acting she learns a lot about herself. When she portrays a particular character, or writes a particular article or experience, she gives herself permission to see it from multiple perspectives.
Using this technique, you give yourself permission to look at things with different points of view. She uses multiple perspectives such as the inanimate point of view, eagle eye point of view, main character, and a bystander point of view. Cassandra finds that when she gives herself time to see things from different viewpoints, without judgement, then she is able to move forward, and overcome.
Prayer is her biggest ally and her biggest helper in overcoming obstacles and stumbling blocks.
Follow Authentic Laughter
As advice to those wanting to develop their own talents, Cassandra recommends following your authentic laughter. When you authentically laugh, “it sort of starts from the very center of your belly, and bursts forward, and every muscle in your face is affected.” If what you are thinking about doing, could give you that feeling, then do it. Why not? Just try, just do it.
All of the reasons why not, are really just excuses for why you wouldn’t do something that brings you that much joy. When you are that affected by what you are doing, when you have that joy, it radiates from inside you. It becomes contagious. It becomes an amazing joyful experience not only for you, but to those around you as well.
We are often told conflicting messages. One, that you should go and get everything you want. And Two, that if you do you are selfish.
It ultimately comes down to finding balance. You should chase your dreams, but don’t sacrifice the most important things in your life to do it. if there is something that can potentially give you that much joy, that can make experiences better for the people around you also, then “there is no reason to NOT do it.”
The first actionable step is to see yourself thoroughly enjoying that moment, and if that’s your reality or could be your reality, then go for it!
Cassandra talked with her son, and asked him what he thought about how to overcome fear. His one word answer was profound:
Don’t hesitate. If it’s a fear of something that really could make you and the world better, then just jump. Don’t think about it.
For Cassandra who in her words is “the worrier, the over-thinker, the over-analyzer…” she thought this advice was amazing. Don’t doubt, “just jump.”
Cassandra has spent years balancing hats. Now she is on a wellness journey. She feels like she is being called to rest a little bit more, and is really looking forward to being more present. And in being more intentional with her “yes’s” and “no’s”. She wants to absorb every moment she can and enjoy her time with her family.
Because it is moments, not things, that truly make us happy.
You can find Cassandra at:
- Catholic Online. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=5611
- Gretchen Rubin. (2017). Retrieved from http://gretchenrubin.com/podcast/
- TED Ideas Worth Spreading. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks
- Walsh, Sister M. A. (2005). United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/holy-see/john-paul-ii/
- Word on Fire Show. (2017). Retrieved from http://wordonfireshow.com/