Single Mom Slice Of Life:
Visiting With The Head GEM

You know the name, have done your part to help support the brand, and without a doubt have an image of the woman and her glamorous life jet-setting across the country.  After a recent visit, I am willing to give you some insight into the woman herself.

Rene and I are related via my dad, who is her half-brother.  My earliest thoughts of Rene (and my Aunt Tracy) include being taken to college with them… and maybe a coloring book and a candy bar as a bribe to keep quiet in class if memory serves.  Now, how much weight does that kind of history carry today?  None at all.  But, 20 (30?) years later, there is a difference from the college girl I knew then and the seemingly intimidating aunt I know now.




You know what they say about perfect plans?  Well, people who believe in perfect plans don’t account for blizzards, rental car pick-ups (and somewhere around Lesson #4 – rental car drop-offs), downtown Phoenix traffic, etc.  It gets to the best of us, and Rene is no exception.  She sounded a little frazzled, and two hours after we’d agreed to meet, Rene arrived admitting that her back hurt. Without a doubt – she’s human.  My kids, who had not met her before, were awestruck with the fact that she had been on TV.  They were driving me insane with questions, but by the time we headed home, they were half ready (ok – completely ready) to ditch me and move in with her.

Read more:  Breaking The Adult Rules: Lessons I Learned From A Trip With My Son


Remember the fact that Rene once changed my diapers; I was the cute little kid that she once doted on.  Yeah, about that.  So with Rene, what you see is what you get.  With more excitement and energy after crossing the country then I had crossing the city limits, she quite literally pushed me aside and said, “I already know you” and engulfed my kids in giant bear hugs.  I eventually got my hug, but still… when it came to the boys she answered every question, laughed at every (bad) joke, and even though she was on a schedule, blew that schedule to sit and catch up.  She is genuinely interested in those around her.  We went to dinner a few nights later, and showed the exact same enthusiasm with the lady seated next to us that she had with the kids, and again, from that stranger turned friend, received a hug for her time.

Read more:  Single Mom Slice Of Life: How My Boys Bonded Over Fighting…




…my aunt is a mom just like me!

This is my favorite.  So, after just having braved a blizzard to cross the country, driving half an hour to come visit before having to drive another two hours to her destination, and running however long before that, the following was (basically) the text conversation between Rene in Arizona and her daughter, Casey, in New York:

Casey: Hey, Mom, is Anita coming over tomorrow?

Rene: I’m in Arizona.  How about, “Hi, Mom?  How are you?”

Casey: Hi, Mom. I’m fine.

Yeah, so, I’m not the only one that has those kinds of conversations.  It’s reassuring in a way.  That having been said, she had no sympathy for my firm ‘no pictures’ policy, and none of my begging, pleading, or rolling my eyes did any good at all trying to get out of the mandatory family reunion pics.  I was even blamed for taking a bad picture of her and the boys… like there was no chance it was the camera’s fault??

Read more:  Single Mom Slice Of Life: Dinner With A Side Of… Conversation?




Three days into her visit, we were met for dinner again – adults only.  True to form, I was a Good Enough Niece who got lost picking her up from the rental car drop off and left her literally leaning against the wall waiting for me.  Then, there was the sharp hairpin turn taken at 50 miles an hour (in my defense, there were NO streetlights anywhere!).  Add to that the lack of sit-down restaurants, and finally pushing our way through the Valentine’s Day crowd to take the only two seats at the bar in the local Applebee’s.  Yeah, it was an embarrassing start to the night.  Through that dinner, I felt a little self-conscious that my recap of the last 20 years wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops.  That awkwardness was dismissed when she did a little venting of her own.  I realize this is technically a part of the “she’s human” lesson, but for all of the globe-trotting, web-site having, TV show taping – she’s just my aunt, who has frustrations, harder (and more) jobs than I think any of us realized, fears, and hard life decisions to make just like the rest of us.



Single Mom Slice Of Life: Visiting With The Head GEM

The visit was short, the wine was delicious (oh yeah, she can REALLY drink…), but in the end, I dropped her off in front of her hotel (after only four illegal U-turns), and wanted to give her a hug, just in case another 20 years pass before I had the opportunity to do so.  I was going to apologize for the illegal U-turns, tell her how envious I was that she seemed to make friends out of thin air, reassure her that if she needed help with anything, I would do what I could… all the things that nieces say to their aunts.  Instead, she said to me, “You’ve done a lot of good, but your kids… you’ve raised great kids,” and then she turned and walked away.  This woman, who was in just about every way drained, with a full calendar ahead of her, who smiled at the night staff as she walked by, who made friends everywhere she went, made me want to be better.  Not just a better mom (because yeah, the boys are still trying to convince me to let them move to New York with her), but a better person in general.

Read more:  Single Mom Slice Of Life: Wait! ..Am I Turning Into MY Parents?


That’s the real Rene… someone who gives, who inspires, who loves, and doesn’t hold back.  If you’ve ever questioned if anything you read as just hype, I can say, absolutely not.  If you’ve ever wondered, “Can one woman drink that much wine?”  Yes, yes she can.

If you’ve ever wondered how one person can do it all… the answer is very carefully, with an amazing team, and with not just a little sacrifice.  That sacrifice is exciting, and 100% Good Enough.

So what family reunions have you had lately?  What did you learn about your family tree?  What did you learn about yourself?  Let us know!

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Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 12 and 16. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and this year returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler.