I’ve learned that bonds made virtually that you don’t think can get any closer—can absolutely get deeper. I met thirty fellow AssistU community members last weekend at AssistU’s Homecoming in Reston, VA. Once you’ve hugged in person, not wanting to let go, and looked searchingly into their eyes and laughed together until the tears are streaming (or pee your pants if you happen to be connecting with Lee or listening to Antonette’s pealing laugh!) you know words are not needed to mesh your hearts any more tightly. You're gotten and you know it.

I’ve experienced this at every AssistU gathering since the first DC Metro/Maryland Chapter picnic I Einstein attended as a newbie in 2005 followed by AU10 in Gaithersburg, MD 2007; AU11 in Las Vegas 2008; AU12 in Minneapolis 2009; and Homecoming in Reston, VA 2010. Thank you to Anastacia and Dawn and the entire Homecoming team for making this event so memorable! Especially the evening tour of DC which absolutely rocked!

I’ve become deeply attached to so many now familiar faces and had the opportunity to meet fabulous new faces and even introduce myself as Laura Laura Allen (and be joined by Lee Lee this year!). In Minneapolis I didn’t want anyone to be confused by the similar names of Lara and Laura Jo and Laura and after I’d said hi I’m Laura I realized I needed to say which Laura so it came out Hi I’m Laura, Laura Allen. 😉

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting one of my interns at every event and this year was no exception. I originally connected with Beatrice Ten-Thye through my aunt in Oakville who told me she had a friend who would love to do what I did. Bea and I connected through email and when she was finished traveling at the time she said she’d be in touch about the AU VTP, and about a year later she was. I encouraged her to do her research thoroughly, get her questions answered before she applied to the program and had a pleasant heartfelt interview with her while I was Admissions Director. Since then she’s become a joyful and welcome addition to our community.

When Bea graduated from the VTP and opened the virtual doors of SMART VA she and her husband were planning to travel on their new boat for a few months at the end of summer and asked to do her internship with me. Would I be willing to experiment with her? Of course! I was thrilled and honored to work with her and have the opportunity to get to know each other better. My husband and I have put our plans to become liveaboards on hold while I care for my mom but I was so excited to see if Bea would enjoy working from her boat for several weeks.

Bea has become a full partner not only in my business and with my clients but in my life, she brainstormed possibilities with me, juggled everything I tossed her way and she listened on the days when I was overwhelmed as a caregiver and when I debated about traveling to Virginia for Homecoming. Her and her husband’s generosity in treating me to the awards luncheon and DC tour moved me to tears! I wasn't surprised at all when she was nominated for Most Supportive Community Member of the Year (my running mate in that category, too) but I knew the community would see her as I do; Bea cares deeply about her friends, partners, classmates, and clients—she was a shoe-in!

Bea and Me The first highlight of my trip was to hear Bea’s lovely German accented voice holler my name from  across the Hyatt Hotel lobby and then run at me for full tackle! Her enthusiasm was unbounded and she's even MORE authentic in person! The second highlight was to sit next to her while she was named Community Member of the Year and receive her award—you truly deserve this Bea! These are the moments I traveled thousands of miles to experience and they are priceless!

Congrats to all the 2010 AU Community Recognition Award recipients:
•    Techie of the Year: Sandra Trca-Black
•    Staff Member of the Year: Barbara Lochen
•    Most Supportive Community Member of the Year: Beatrice Ten-Thye
•    Buddy of the Year: Pat Matson
•    Top Portal Poster of the Year: Pat Matson
•    Volunteer of the Year: Merri Taylor
•    Honorary AssistU Community Member of the Year: Angela Mattson, of Mattson Business Services

And there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when a shocked Larissa Parks received VA of the Year. Girl you earned it, you rock! Here we are later that day on the DC evening tour:  Larissa Homecoming

This is a peek into the cementing of relationships that happens at our in-person events, bonds that reach far and wide and go beyond career and business. If you haven’t had the chance to meet your cohorts (or clients) make plans now to connect with them face-to-face. If you’re an AU VA please consider joining us for Homecoming 2011 in San Diego (yay Rach & Robyn!), I’ll be there waiting to fold you into a real live hug!