ARCHIVE: Soup’s on the Boyle

farleyboylechickensoupSouperMom Farley Boyle, seen with daughter Chase and on a locally legendary cover of MAR Magazine, comes to River Road Books this Thursday for a free personal appearance promoting her contribution to CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: POWER MOMS.

(First published on Red Bank oRBit June 9, 2009)

Little Silver’s Farley Boyle has been branded a supermodel, by dint of her 15 year career as a regular presence on top magazine covers and major ad campaigns. And, although she disdains the word, she’s been called a supermom, a co-star on the Discovery Health Channel reality series Runway Moms, who went on to found a burgeoning nonprofit organizing dedicated to saving young lives. And now — via her participation in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms, you could call her a SouperMom as well.

By now, everyone knows the Chicken Soup franchise as the gentle juggernaut that continues to steamroll its way across the publishing landscape, even as it ladles out affirmation, inspiration and positive reinforcement from a bouillabaise of contributors, on topics that have ranged from mothers, teachers, pets, caregivers, NASCAR, chiropractors and American Idols.

Released earlier this spring, Power Moms is a volume dedicated to “busy stay-at-home and work-from-home mavens” who “somehow manage to balance kids, their communities, and sometimes work.” Included are pieces from co-editor Wendy Walker (on how she wrote her first novel from the backseat of her minivan), author Jane Green (on how she left an unhappy marriage, became a single mom, and devoted herself to her kids and writing career), entrepeneur Liz Lange (on how sheraised her children while building a maternity clothing empire), and an essay called “A Mother’s Intuition,” by one Lynne Spears.

While the involvement of Mama Spears might tilt the perception of this project for many readers, it helps to consider the contribution of Farley Boyle — a true-life story entitled “Paying It Forward.” Like so many of her activities these days, the story has its origins in a narrowly averted catastrophe — the near-death by drowning of her daughter Chase in August 2005, and her husband Pat’s rescue of Chase through administering of CPR and infant/child choking maneuvers; techniques that the Boyles had learned when they enrolled in a CPR course recommended by Farley’s OB-GYN.

Farley, who had just brought her newest daughter Abigail home from the hospital that very day, was immediately inspired to “pay it forward” by teaming with the Little Silver First Aid Squad to host an impromptu CPR/Choking Maneuver clinic event at the Boyle home for friends and neighbors. It’s an endeavor that evolved into C.H.A.S.E. For Life — a happy acronym (it stands for CPR, Health, Awareness, Safety,Education) for a serious organization that aims to educate no less than everybody in the fundamentals of how to save a child’s life.

Beginning at 7:30pm this Thursday evening, June 11, model citizen Farley Boyle visits the indispensably indie River Road Books in Fair Haven to sign copies ofPower Moms, discuss the ongoing work of C.H.A.S.E. for Life, and meet her neighbors in a casually comfortable setting whose proprietors KarenSharon,Laurie and Kim are on a mission to identify and promote the talented people who live among us.

Farley also happens to be one of just 90 people in North America who have been selected as finalists in People magazine’s All-Stars Among Us promotion — a continent-wide contest in which humanitarians and other community-minded folks get to represent their favorite major league baseball teams in an online ballot. The winner and his/her cause gets a trip to the All Star Game in St. Louis, and a full page profile in People. Take it here, select Farley’s team (the Yankees), and vote early and often.

Red Bank oRBit found this positively charged Power Mom at her home on the banks of the Shrewsbury, where she admonished daughters Mackenzie, Chase and Abigail to turn off a certain inappropriate bit of programming (”We don’t watch the Disney Channel here,” she explained, “it’s just way too Britney Spears”). Read on for what Mom had to say.

victoriamcdougallpaddychaseBlack dress and tux: Farley Boyle is pictured at right, with CHASE For Life marketing director Victoria McDougall and official mascot Paddy the Penguin.

RED BANK ORBIT: I was about to ask if the kids were all home from school, but I guess that answers that…

FARLEY BOYLE: There is no lack of drama around here with three girls. They’re always a little competitive with each other — not in the same way that boys are competitive, but obsessed with each other; they’re always up in each other’s space. Boys will fight and get hurt and wind up in and out of the hospital with broken bones — girls will be in and out of Mom’s Hospital, with broken spirits. In fact, one of my daughters was overheard telling a friend, who was crying about something or other, to ’save your drama for your mama.’

I suppose one of the first things we all learn is the location of the buttons and when to push. On days when things get a little out of control around the house, do you wonder about the whole concept of a Power Mom? How exactly do you define Power Mom, anyway?

Each person has their own definition of a Power Mom. Liz Lange, who also wrote a piece for the book, defined it as ‘a mom that doesn’t have help;’ personally I think it means a woman who’s organized, who’s on top of things, who makes sure her family has dinner the same time every night. Someone who’s involved with things like school support, philanthropy, things that are happening in her community.

Not everyone can be a great philanthropist, though; can you be a Power Mom if you’re working at Wal-Mart?

Absolutely. A Power Mom is self-defined, no matter what kind of work you do. Every mom who multi-tasks is a Power Mom — and by multi-tasking I don’t just mean cleaning, shopping, driving the kids around. I think that men are happy to let you do whatever you’re capable of doing. I’ll take care of things that need fixing — if I can’t do it myself, I’ll call the plumber; I’ll be the one showing where the boiler is and what needs to be fixed. I have my tools; I’ve got my drill — I’m the one who put everything up on the walls around here!

You can be a ‘Mom-trepeneur;’ somebody who thinks of a new way to make other moms’ lives easier. Or you can be a stay-at-home mom, and if you’re the person who’s running the household, making sure everything works, the bills are paid, everybody gets where they’re going on time — you’re a Power Mom.

Would you say then that the mantle of Power Mom is conferred upon you whether you’re ready or not?

Women become very selfless when they have kids. Careers that were so all-consuming a couple of years ago get put on hold; priorities can change. I was a journalism major in college; I wanted to be a reporter, and I had an internship at CBS for a while. But I found a mate, started a family, and I think I let go of what I had originally set out to do.

Frankly, you got out of journalism while the getting was good. But you’ve had experience with writing, and I was wondering how you came to be involved in the Chicken Soup project? Did someone approach you who knew you from TV, or who knew about your organization?

I had heard that the publishers were looking for submissions for this new title — I sent them a story about C.H.A.S.E. For Life, and fortunately they selected it for the book.

You’ve got a lot of extraordinary women contributing to this volume, and that can be inspiring to your readers, but at the same time do you think that the bar’s been raised so high it can be intimidating; more of a SuperMom thing than a Power Mom? 

The idea behind the book is that it makes all moms feel like Power Moms. You don’t have to be running around in a cape with an ‘S’ on it — the lesson from a lot of our stories is that it’s okay to need help; we’re human, and if we’re juggling 90 balls up in the air we’re going to drop a few of them.

Still, there are such things as SuperMoms out there. I know one woman who’s got four active boys, who was able to teach classes right through her eighth month of pregnancy.

For your part, you were able to create this positive thing by snatching it away from what could have a certain tragedy.

I started this nonprofit because of a happy ending. Because of training, quick thinking by my husband, we had a happy ending where so many other stories end in tragedy. We did something; we took a course when we were pregnant with our first child, and it made a difference when it mattered the most. Our kids are alive; we’re still living right here on the water, where it happened right at our dock. And our daughter Chase is completely unafraid of the water.

Those few minutes make all the difference — even living in a small town, in a densely populated area, it still takes at least four minutes for the responders to get to you. And you know, five minutes means almost certain brain damage; six minutes is brain death. So the idea is that everyone should know these lifesaving procedures — and that you don’t have to be certified to save a life.

Is that a common misconception?

It is, because so many of these organizations are for-profit whereas we’re non-profit. They want you to pay over a hundred dollars, take a six-week course, and that’s going to keep some people from learning what they need to know. So unless you work for the government or you’re in a union, CPR training is not free.

With C.H.A.S.E. For Life, we’re pushing to make CPR and child/infant choking procedures available to everyone, and we’re working with organizations like the American Red Cross. We have our film, which we modeled after Schoolhouse Rock, and we have our character Paddy the Penguin, who’s named after my husband. We want him to become as familiar as Smokey the Bear! We even got the rights from the Bee Gees to use the song “Stayin’ Alive” — we put Paddy in a white Saturday Night Fever suit! It’s all about de-mystifying this information.

So apart from this local event in Fair Haven, have you been making any appearances promoting this book?

I took part in a giant signing event in Manhattan, at the Barnes & Noble near Lincoln Center. It was a great group of women, sharing their tips with each other; a lot of us told each other that we’re still struggling, still relying on friends to help us along.

It was an honor to be on a panel with women like Liz Lange. She said that it’s important for us to embrace the moment we’re in — sometimes we have to make a decision for me. To be there at an event like that, when you son is sick at home.

Was Lynne Spears there with you?

No, and I don’t want to knock Lynne or her two daughters — she is definitely a mom who’s been moving mountains to get her kids to where they wanted to be. It was, as I said, a nice group to be part of. But no matter who you are, you can still be involved; still be a Power Mom. If all of us made a list of all the hundreds of big and little things we did each day— well, our husbands would take one look at it and die!

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