Cassie ‘Haley’ Self! “My all time favorite hippie”
I met her in San Francisco! In, let me think, the summer of 2016! Cassie used to be a journalist for a global news platform for the power industry called Power Today….. That southern vibe, that country girl appearance, that accent. Exactly what Cassie adorns. The simplicity and driving force behind that 5.5 ft tall beautiful lightning strike is that she calls herself mama of three handsome teenagers. She is also a business woman who owns two women’s clothing boutiques and does much more than your average soccer mom. She is a TV host for cooking shows, presents independent film events and on top of that is also a leading actress in more than a dozen independent films.
I visit Cassie in her neck of the woods and we talk about life and dreams but especially about “Sweet Inspirations” – her latest film that premieres this weekend on Pureflix.com. Cassie plays the role of housewife and accountant, Maggie, who comes up with the innovative idea to make cupcakes and sell them for a good cause.
Welcome to Northwest Arkansas. Home of the very first Walmart, “just around the corner from where it all started back in the summer of 1962”! Walmart is the largest grocery store chain here in The United States and you can see that. You can compare it with the Carrefour Stores in Belgium but then on steroids. A couple facts? $20 billion in sales, 2.3 million employees and nearly 12,000 stores worldwide.
After watching and reading about ‘Sweet Inspirations’, I realize that despite the funny hues, it is unfortunately a very recognizable topic for many of us. The story is about abuse and it only takes a few statistics to prove that domestic violence is a serious public health issue. It is dramatic to read that every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in The United States. 28,000 calls per day, that is the sad verdict about the amount of calls the domestic violence hotlines across the nation receive every day. More than 43% of the divorces here in the united states arise from abuse within the walls of these so called “happy households.” Dramatic facts that are the total opposite of the beautiful song lyrics of ‘She Is Always a Women to me’ by Billy Joel, who also wrote The Piano Man. Whether this is mental or physical abuse, it is wrong! It indicates that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women are put in a corner where they absolutely don’t belong. Hotlines for the USA via 1-800-799-SAFE. In Belgium via 1712 to report abuse. Netherlands via 0900-0101 and France via landline: 17 and 211 via cellphone. More info below at the end of the article
The sensitive topic in the film did not leave Cassie unmoved, which is perhaps why Cassie was chosen out of many casting candidates to play the leading roll. Off course Cassie is a beautiful lady but still, you have to ‘feel’ the part you play to make a film succeed. The story, written by Tommy Blaze, produced by Rockshill Studios in Fayetteville, AR, and directed by Brittany Yost, is about Maggie who convinces her best friends to open a gourmet cupcake bakery and use the proceeds to save a local abused women’s shelter. The recipe of a cupcake is easy to make and the profit margin is big. At least that’s what they thought. They hope for quick success and big profits because the need is high. The local shelter is falling on hard times and runs short on financial supplies. Is this a good idea or …? Well, watch the movie and figure it out … You are guaranteed an ending that won’t disappoint.
For the best cupcake recipe and my “mise en place” I ask my handsome neighbor Char (via Instagram @charmodelle) to help me out. Char is not only a model but also an experienced cupcake baker. She found an old traditional cupcake recipe based on flour, salt, baking powder, butter eggs, milk, fresh vanilla and obviously frosting. Today we make them from scratch as a small exercise so that I could go visit Cassie as a pro-cupcake-baker. Better safe than sorry…
We are here for a good time, not for a long time
The more I talk to Cassie about the movie, the more I realize that despite her own independence, she has also experienced some serious struggles herself. From a divorce to raising three young children as a single mom in today’s day and age, life isn’t easy. However, this is about the film and I do my best to continuously touch that topic while I’m rooting in the flour and dough with my hands, constantly battling one of the most difficult interviews I ever wrote..
At one point Cassie gives me the feeling that Sweet Inspirations shows us a little view into her own life and I realize that she really wants to be inspirational for a large number of women worldwide. And she can! I ask her if she wants to be the next Mother Teresa. “Of course I probably can’t achieve that! But I certainly want do my part.”
I feel more and more that she hit a crossroad and wants to spread her wings, again. Is it the movie? Is it life in general? Could it be the sugar in the cupcakes?
I definitely know that this is not a typical midlife crisis, this is her being her! And I love it.
She starts to talk… The kids are older right now, Bart. The oldest one is studying in New York and is the first one to leave the nest that I built. The other two seem right behind her. In a way I feel that the time has come for me. As we say in moviemaking, ‘back to one’. I see myself traveling possibly as a journalist in my ‘life 2.0’ like I recently call it. Whether that is in front or behind the camera does not matter. I do have a story to tell.. And I can write! I wrote a couple of screenplays or maybe I should think about a documentary that could end up on streaming platforms, Or maybe I can start writing for a magazine. I don’t know. I would love to inspire families, youngsters, or other people in my stage of life.
She loves the vibe of The Bucket List Family (@bucketlistfamily) and happily sings along with ‘The Long Way Home’ by Norah Jones. That right there is the basis of a dream, of a plan. I would like to know more about that …
Her friends sometimes have the same problems she tells me and sometimes feel stuck in life …, it all has to do with raising kids, being married or even divorced. Being stuck man! It’s like having everything and nothing at the same time. They all dream, whether they come from an abusive relationship or not, they don’t feel like they have the opportunity to sail away and “go find a sense of purpose”. That is what I’m feeling. I could sail away right now. Time Bart, time is relative. We are still young and I accept the fact that we are here for a good time, not for a long time…” She has a point!
The turning point
While I put the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, Cassie tells me she is actually happy and blessed about this interview because I actually seem to care about her as a person and not just the celebrities in the movie, and it takes a different turn all of a sudden. It is not a typical film release interview. She has watched the movie promoted and she’s happy it was filmed in her hometown. Then Cassie showed me an exclusive inside look in the shell where she resides in, her safe shell. Home, her Dreams ..
I see in her eyes that she wants to tell me something. She asks me about my culinary road trips. She wants to know my story, about living a creative life on the road while maintaining a household. It suddenly is very inspiring for her and I feel that the interview is in fact turning 180 degrees the other way around.
“Well Cassie, I would like to live on a God forgotten property in the middle of nowhere surrounded by wide open spaces, with a tiny river and maybe a waterfall. And build a small house of old materials that I locally source for a nickel and a dime, and put solar panels on it. For sure chickens, eggs… Yes, and the kids, we build tiny homes for them as they grow older to make sure they can really stand on their own feet and kind a live independent. They should all live on the same property but still live on their own, I see that happening somewhere in the midwest. Not in Las Vegas though. And meanwhile I will never stop traveling, because I am on the hunt and looking for who knows what… I don’t even know. Experiences are better than possessions, that is what I think … “
Where we ‘re going, we don‘t need roads
I tell her about my upcoming road trip to Nappa Valley, California with the camper in March and the few interviews in Lodi California where I will cook at The Bokish Vineyard winery with wines as the basic ingredient. She asks if it is Pinot Noir, and indeed, I will make some dishes with Pinot, Cassie. “Can I maybe come over to visit you and possibly help stir in some cooking pots, I can cook”
In the same context of “why not” … Of course, you are welcome! Are you flying to San Francisco and I will pick you up from there? And I bring you back to the airport in the evening?
“Eeeh, can I just fly to Vegas and maybe join you for a week, like camping in the camper? I can do the dishes and I can write your recipes if you want? I could film our adventures, sorry ‘your’ adventures.” And that‘s when it hit me. She needs to spread her wings. Yes Cassie, in your words “let‘s plan it”. Maybe we can go kayak the Napa Valley River like you did 3 years ago, I would love for you to join, we can have a glass of wine together and yes we can film the experience and even take some cool pictures.
“On a side note, one day I will have you meet my mom and my aunt who are twin sisters. Lanna Shannon my aunt, is a real hippie. You should go see her with me. She lives on a magical 80 acre property that her and my mom chose to get together, not to far from here where I live. It‘s a spiritual place just outside of Madison County. Red Star is the nearest small town. No running water or electricity but you can fix that with solar. My aunt uses solar now. There is a waterfall, bluffs, mountains…”. Let me ask her if we can build your @denvertent on the property for the weekend, we can make a campfire and you can call it ‘home’ for the weekend. I‘ll cook us some barbeque, didn‘t you mention a vintage barbeque cookbook, I got some recipes for ya…”
How did John Lennon say that again? “You may say I’m a dreamer”? Well, I guess I am not the only one.
Cassie, can I just like…. marry you?
On the way out I take a quick look around, the old wall clock strikes 5:55 … Cassie says goodbye to me and suddenly I think about the Angel Numbers: ‘555’. I believe that means that big changes are coming up.
‘Sweet Inspirations’ will be released this weekend via pureflix.com.
View the trailer here…
“Alexa: play Rivers and Roads by The Head & The Heart again for me please”…
Car: Toyota Prius
Value car: monetary not important, it means the world to me because it is and will always be my first borns car, my daughter. #notforsale
Hobbies: I sing karaoke, comedy improv, ballroom dancing, coming up with fake business ideas with my brother and friends. And obviously camping, cooking and fishing. Wink wink
Age: I feel like 26, does that make sense haha.
Family: 3 kids
Boyfriend: No… Should we consider the Napa Roadtrip as a…, “Cassie stop ok”
Pets: dog (Fancy), cat (Skyla), tourtous (Digs)
Favorite meal: anything Bart cooks (and here we go again lol)- but my kids favorite is my double meat four cheese lasagna (with pork and beef)
Red or white wine: Pinot Noir please in Lodi California, or when it is super dooper hot I prefer a cold chardonnay anywhere on a beach, as long as it‘s sunny outside
Quote: “The purpose of life is to live it, to experience the best, to reach out eagerly and without fear of a better experience” – Eleonor Roosevelt
Goal to achieve: back to one: it’s a movie saying, back to your starting position, the basics. In life I feel I am back to one now. Doing different things, kids are growing up, they are leaving the nest. Where I am at now is redefining my purpose – figure out where to start, like a starting over process. It could be more movies or going back to teaching. The goal is no goal, but I would like to create another goal. Ha! Because the best thing that I have for myself is a golden pen in my hand, It is loaded with ink and ready to write my next story.
Follow cassie on Instagram @cassiehaleyself FB/thecassieself