openreddoor.jpg Exactly four years ago, Jonathan and I were wrapping up our eighth month of marriage. We were newlyweds. Our kitchen appliances still had that just-unwrapped, straight-from-the-registry shine. Without enough furniture to fill our three-bedroom rental house, we could do occasional cartwheels in the hallways, sommersaults in the living room.

Once, we set up a badminton net downstairs and bopped the birdie back and forth. The cats sat sentinel on the kitchen counter, their twin tails twitching, their heads bobbing in time with each volley.

I was still attending school, making the mind-numbing commute to and from UC Davis twice a week. We owned only one car, the Audi, and had to shuttle one another to and from work... Jon at the lab, me at Banana Republic in Stoneridge Mall. In the evenings, we played board games, played video games, played with our cats. Every day brought something new, an insight about eternity and sharing four walls, a shower, and a car with only one other person.

Hours in the car, hours of folding sweaters and stacking them in perfect, fluffy towers on tables, hours of homework, hours of life... the time would snake by me, so fast I couldn't always keep up. We traveled and camped and attended church and spent time with our families. Somewhere in the midst of all of that, I was overwhelmed. Where were my pretty words? Where were my imaginings? I was numb, unable to create something poetic for my own sake, and it scared me. I was like an amputee staring at the void where my long lost limb ought to have been. Had I missed my chance to be the author I'd long dreamed I would be?

Exactly four years ago, Jonathan built a blog for me.

He said, "Here is an outlet for everything you want to say, for all the stories you want to tell."

The virtual platform was foreign to me. Naturally, I'd journaled before. As a girl, I'd kept diaries since fifth grade. My Aunt Mary sent me my first diary for Christmas. It was white and pink and had a tiny gold lock. It dazzled me. I ran to my bedroom and flopped onto my bed to pour out my nine-year-old heart onto the 4 x 6 pages. To my horror, the pages were dated and began with Janurary 1, 1993! Wait a week to pen my first entry? Wait to divulge the daily dramas of Bunker Elementary School and my little Newark neighborhood?? Impossible. I scratched out my first journal entry just inside the front cover in pencil. Dear Diary...

Along with the lock, of course, came a precious gold key. Hiding that key was my second true love after writing in the diary itself. I hid it in five different places each week, moving it methodically from a potpourri sachet in my sock drawer to the pocket of my teddy bear's dress to a space behind a ribbon on a wreath to the ledge above my door... all in the interest of keeping my deepest, most secret thoughts from my rabid little brothers. "David Dickerson kissed Natalie on the playground." "When I grow up, I want to be like Nellie Bly." "Mrs. Busselen asked me to read aloud in class again today. I love Summer of the Monkeys ." Etc. Top Secret stuff!

Twelve years later, in April of 2005, Jonathan gifted me a blog. I was pensive.

As I am not one to release cosmic questions out into the void, nor am I one to pose public questions to my God (because the theatrics minimalize the sincerity, in my opinion), all ponderances will be strictly streams of consciousness. I like this idea.

In all honesty, I have blogged once before. The endeavor lasted all of a week. But in the end I emerged a little healthier, a little less tense. It's a good thing, too. The world, especially the smallish sphere of my good friends and family, was the better for it. This time around my goal is one solid month of routine writing sessions. And boy I hope that statement doesn't come back to bite me.

-- In the Beginning... - April 22, 2005 --

As you can see, I had no idea what I was getting myself into that day. My spelling was rusty and my grammar needed some fine tuning. Also, as it turns out, I AM the kind of person who releases cosmic questions out into the void ... the kind of person who poses public questions to and about God. I am also the kind of person who writes about Seinfeld , Innisfree , and the " other side of ham !"

Today, my blog has been visited by people all over the world. In 2007, Jon signed us up with Google Analytics, and suddenly we could see who was visiting TGBTRD and how often and after what kind of search. Since August 7, 2007, TGBTRD has been visited by more than 4,000 different people. Of those, about 1,000 visit with some regularity. (About 300 people have come back and read my stuff between 50 and 200 times! Hello, Friends & Family!)

The TOP 10 most-read entries of all time are (in order):

Eloquate 3/27/06
Prop 8 v. People in the Glass Houses 10/21/08
A Black Eye for YouTube 04/14/08
A Modern Christian's Blasphemy 02/20/08
Resolved: A Cake Story 01/01/06
Are walruses native to the Arctic? 03/01/07
Live from the Touchstone Roped Series at Pipe Works Gym... it's Friday night! 09/14/07
Twilight and Mist 11/19/08
She Loves the Half-Timbered Buildings in Strasbourg! 09/24/08
A Teeming Brain 01/13/08

In this collection, you'll find excellent writing and shoddy writing... a vast variety of topics from the adventures of indoor rock climbing to pondering my grandmother's descent into Alzheimer's. There is talk of cake baking, world traveling, Jeff Foxworthy, girl fights and gay marriage. And then... there's the single most visited entry of all time.

Just for the record, Eloquate is nowhere near my favorite entry, and I don't think most people read it and think, Genius! As a matter of fact, the entry itself is about my being unable to think of the word articulate , and how my poor, desperate brain was spitting out mishapen alternatives like "belly flops" at a Jelly Belly factory (something I've also blogged about... Jelly Bellies are the best! 08/27/06). Apparently, I'm not the only one who has been stymied into wondering whether eloquate is a real word. One hundred and seventy-five people have arrived at that entry because they Googled it. Unfortunately, eloquate is not a real word, but perhaps it could be. If I get a few more hits, I'll submit eloquate to Merriam Webster!

Today, Jonathan and I still feel like newlyweds. We've purchased a second couch, lamps, hung artwork on our walls. While this quite possibly should translate to the days of Living Room Badminton being over, Jonathan constructed a giant styrofoam plane and launched it indoors just two weeks ago, so... some things never change. But we've also purchased a second car, my beautiful brunette Jeep Liberty, Bronwyn. I am a college graduate, and my killer commute to Davis is no more. I haven't folded a sweater since 2006 (don't worry, Mom, I hang mine in my closet). And I've kept The Girl Behind the Red Door running for four years.

There isn't a doubt in my mind that I am a better, happier, more creative person because of this outlet. On my worst days, when I stand before a mirror and barely recognize the girl with the soft triceps, the two-tone hair, the fragile beginnings of crows feet radiating from her bloodshot eyes, tapping into TGBTRD reminds me of my existence and my journey. It helped me when Mom-the-Mighty-Oak was nearly felled by a tiny tumor on her Pituitary Gland. It helped me when I watched my brother and others struggle through divorce proceedings . It helped when I fought with friends, when I doubted my God, when I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. It has been therapy; it has been joy.

Ultimately, I am grateful to Jonathan for the gift of this garden plot, this tree on which I can suspend a tire swing for my barefoot muse to sway upon. And I owe much to her, too. She is the solitary reaper of whom Wordsworth wrote:

BEHOLD her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;--
I listen'd, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

All over the world, people have listened to the maiden behind the red door... and I dedicate this 287th entry to her. Four years and counting! Happy Anniversary, TGBTRD!