We’ve moved so many times that for years my blog was called The Gypsy Mama. And when we arrived at the house we now live in, it would take two years before I made any real friends. I don’t know about you, but somehow it’s harder to make friends during the minivan driving years than the pigtails and playdoh years.

It can feel awkward trying to connect with other women beyond the sporadic play dates your kids might have.

The thing about women is that we always assume the girl next door, the women across the aisle, the mom in the car pool lane, your husband’s best friend’s wife, your cousin, great aunt or the stranger in the dressing room next to you at the mall has it figured out. Whether “it’s” how to balance motherhood with, well, anything else really. Or how to manage her temper or style her hair or stock her fridge or connect with her husband or make new friends.

We’re always certain we’re the only one who feels awkward or incompetent or left out or frumpy or you-name-it.

For nearly two years after we moved to Virginia I assumed that all the other women at church knew each other.

At the same time I kept hearing women online talking about their deep desire for real community and their simultaneous fear of trying to connect.

Seems like I wasn’t alone after all.

And I kept wondering how we could bridge the gap between our desire for friends and our discomfort at trying to make them. In many ways, that was the beginning of the dream of the (in)RL conference. Short for (in) real life – you know, like the acronym “IRL” that all our teenagers are so familiar with – we started to imagine an event that instead of bringing women half way around the country, would connect them right where they are. That might be the impetus for stepping out and making a new friend.

So with a global webcast and local meetups, we did just that. We stepped out of our blog boxes and connected with women in the neighborhood. We started to make friends. Friends who might stop by with a meal when life was crazy or offer to pick the kids up after school one day.

Last year nearly 2,000 women from 24 countries participated (in)RL. You can read some of their stories here.

And today FREE registration opens again for the (in)RL {in real life} conference. And beyond the new friendships, I’ve got three more reasons you should register:

  1. It’s FREE!
  2. Everyone who registers today and TODAY ONLY gets a copy of our (in)courage 365 Daybrightener while supplies last (US residents only).
  3. Everyone who registers TODAY AND EVERY DAY gets a copy of our first eBook: Best of the Beach House 2012: A Collection of Your Favorite Posts from the Writers of (in)courage.

Last year (in)RL explored the nitty gritty of community. This year we’re taking a closer look at what it takes to stay rooted in community when sometimes just walking away would be so much easier and tons more convenient. Women share stories of how they’ve chosen to stay through hard marriages, challenging parenting, worthwhile friendships. How choosing to stay has freed them more fully and unexpectedly than if they’d cut and run.

We’d love you to join us. Just click here to register.

And you can check out the (in)RL trailer below.

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