I hadn’t payed much attention to what I was wearing yesterday morning. I had rolled out of bed in my pajamas and stayed in them after sending my son off to school. But when I opened my browser to enter my details in little boxes for the second go ‘round of (in)courage’s worldwide meet-up, I looked down and noticed the letters sticking out in 3D over my expanding belly. Screen print stretched on the comfiest of cotton and lycra with the word (in)RL.

I’ve loved the (in)courage community since I first found my way there through Ann Voskamp’s blog. All of these likeminded women full of creativity and wisdom, I saw them gather together at the beach house for their (in)courage writers’ retreat. When I first saw those pictures and read their reflections, I was writing alone…no one to bounce ideas off of, no venue for sharing, no one near who fully resonated with my attraction to expressing ideas in the written word.

Then, I got invited to the beach house…or, rather, the beach house came to me. I went to (in)RL last year knowing one college friend out of a whole table full of women. But the introductions that day spring-boarded relationships that made my online life feel less virtual and more 3D, like the letters on my tee turned materni-tee, like the (in)courage ladies at the beach house talking out loud over the sound of waves, showing emotion in facial expressions instead of emoticons.

Since that meet-up last April, several of us local bloggers have continued to meet at cafes or schedule summer play dates with the kids in tow. We have helped each other roll out of bed in the morning, encouragement that I desperately needed when exhaustion and morning sickness tried to keep my eyes closed past the alarm clock this fall. We attended Influence together and widened our circle to new locals. And this winter, I’ve pulled up a chair to the lovely classics book club I kept hearing so much about.

Now, when we see each other on-line, we know the voice behind the words, the face behind the avatar.

Things look a little different for me this spring than the last. This expanding belly means I’m trading one happy event for another. Our third little one is scheduled to arrive the very week of the Wiley family’s annual trip down to Ft. Myers, the beach tradition Grandpa and Grandma Wiley started back in 1957.

While we’ll miss being part of the yearly fun in the sun in early April, I will be happily sidetracked with the warmth of a baby girl curled on my chest. And then a few weeks later, I’ll be taking her along to the “beach house” all the same. Thanks, (in)courage, for bringing it back in all it’s casual comfiness. I’ve grown a bit since last year, but the (in)RL T-shirt still fits.

{Did you take part in (in)RL last year? What was your experience like? Register here to take part in your own local (in)RL experience.}

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