What to tell, What to tell...?

The first thing I usually tell people is that I'm from Ann Arbor, MI. All else seems to follow from there. I was born on December Fourth, 1974, second of two daughters born to Diane and Eric Gay. My sister Sarah and I are both winter babies; she came into this world on January 13, 1972, making her 2 years, 11 months older than me. This is an integral part of my biography, since my parents placed me in First grade instead of Kindergarten, leaving me only 2 years behind a sibling who was old for her class. I graduated from Grinnell College with a Bachelor's degree in History in May 1996, at the not-so-unusual age of 21. I greatly admire my sister for having the courage to take time off from school when she needed it. She graduated with a Bachelor's in Arts and Ideas from the University of Michigan Residential College (RC) the same year. Then we went on a road trip together.

After our road trip I moved in with my then-boyfriend, Bill Murphy, a classmate from Grinnell College. We lived in Deerfield, Illinois (north of Chicago) for a year while I did Web Design and we pondered where to jump next. Bill's company headquarters were in Waterloo, Ontario, so I went to the University of Waterloo to get a Master's degree in Systems Engineering, and we lived in Canada for 3 years. Bill and I got married and moved to Michigan (back to Ann Arbor!) in 2001.

Tech jobs were hard to find in Ann Arbor at the time, so I worked for two years at The Caravan Shop, an import gifts and art gallery-type shop in the Nichol's Arcade downtown, before getting a professional placement as a human factors engineer at the artificial intelligence and system design company Soar Technology. I worked for Soartech through 2007, then for about half a year at Electrodynamic Applications, then took a position in Ohio for what turned out to be just over a year at the Klein, Associates division of Applied Research Associates. In the meantime, Bill and I parted ways. He moved out in 2007 and later that year I happened to meet a microbiology PhD candidate my age (who was also chairing a gaming convention that year) with whom I fell in love. Brian Gray and I got married May 22, 2010, shortly after I left Klein Assoc. to again move back to Ann Arbor.

Over the last two decades or so I also grew much closer to my two half-brothers, Ric and Dave, who are my father's sons from his first marriage. They are 11 and 9 years older than me and have provided me with a passel of neices and nephews, who are all great. Many of them have started producing the next generation, even!

And, of course, during all of that I was very active in science fiction fandom.

Pets | Houses | Schools | Authors

Pets across the years

I have had in my lifetime seven cats, one dog, and a gerbil for pets, not counting the fish, which I always thought of as Bill's fish. The gerbil, Sybil, was my first, and the only one for whom I was exclusively responsible. I can say with pride that she lived a long life and calmed down considerably after we removed her from that first grade classroom. Speaking of the classroom, I guess I also had a few mice as pets, but we only had them at our house temporarily before I took them in to my fourth grade classroom. They weren't really mine at that point, though I was often called upon to find and catch them if they got out of their cages.

The first pet my family picked up (literally, my father picked him up in a gas station) was more like a second father to me than a pet. His name was Samuel P. Kitty. He's two and a half years younger than me and we had him since he looked small sitting in the palm of my father's hand. In his hey-day, Sam weighed in at around 20 lbs in a short tiger-brown fur coat. After Sarah and I left for school he got visibly old; his fur was regularly matted, his eyes glowed from astigmatism, and his ribs were visible at twenty feet. I have a photo of him in his last month that dad calls Sam With His High-Beams on, because of the way his eyes lit up from the flash. Having had two TIAs during the first three months of the year, Samuel's condition deteriorated to where he needed to be monitored constantly. In the second week of June he suffered so badly from heat stroke that his eating processes were hindered. it seemed like he couldn't quite swallow right. Four days later, we let him go with the help of our family vet, who joined us for the process on our back deck, in the yard where Sam managed somehow to pass his last couple hours with dignity despite his wretched condition. He now lies under the willow tree with Blitz, and will forever be remembered as the most incredibly patient and noble cat we've ever known.
I wrote a poem dedicated to Sam and our neighbor's cat Orpheus, which is on my
poetry page.

The second pet, not counting gerbils, to enter the household was a friendly little dog named Pepper. He was little as all schnausers are, and he was colored according to his name. He came to us the year we moved to our 18-month vacation house so we had space to tender to a doggy heart which had grown up with lots of wide open air. He was quite happy while were there and could run loose, but somewhat less so when we moved back into town. Pepper never got along terribly well with our older cats but was sometimes seen to try and play with the youngest, Chester. He went to sleep for a final time in my mother's arms when I was in high school.

Soon after moving to the 18-month vacation house I cashed in on an old birthday card and brought home a little grey kitten who grew into a sleek silver cat. We often argue over who came up with the name we gave her, Blitz. {I am of course certain it was myself.} She became a great huntress out there in the near-wild, had seven kittens, and taught her kittens to be hunters also as soon as we let her take them outdoors the following spring. By the time we moved back into town most of the seven were given away. Blitz managed to return to just in front of the house after being hit by a car one November night my junior year; she was found and burried with honor and ceremony the following morning.

We did not intend to keep any of the kittens, but the longer we had them the more attached we grew. There was one in particular, a grey long-hair with white paws and a white ruff and white face with a characteristic dark line down the middle of it that we named Chester. After going through good-byes once for a no-show new owner, in fact, our Mother decided she couldn't take a second round of the crying and told the hapless person we were going to keep him after all. After his mother passed on, this loudmouth furball even managed to get the formerly quiet Sam to start talking again. He passed away in the summer of 2001 and my parents have not gotten any new pets since.

(From 1997 to 2007, I also enjoyed the quiet company of a number of fish, mainly guppies and oscars. In Chicago Bill and I also had some very assertive Convicts, but they were mean to the Oscars so we didn't keep them.)

After we moved to York, PA, Brian and I consented to get our daughter a cat for her fifth birthday (though not the kitten she requested). Candy is a calico cat who loves sleeping in sinks, drinking running water, eating random stuff she finds on the floor/table(!), and sitting on your shoulder like a parrot. In 2016 we added a second cat to the household, a long-haired deep black cat that Rosie named Blackie. Sadly, Blackie passed away during the pandemic, of some form of cancer. He was sweet and we miss him. Two years later we finally fulfilled Rosie's longstanding wish to have a kitten, getting in fact two kittens, a brother and sister of the short-haired black and gray variety. Now that they are at their adult sizes, Wyatt is a chill sort of house panther, while Skye is a small and skittish ninja cat, gray with subtle gray stripes.


Growing up, I always lived in Ann Arbor, with the same phone number (neat, eh?), but in a variety of houses.

When I was born we lived in the bottom half of a duplex at the bottom of Edgewood street, in the heart of the Old West Side. There was quite a community on that street, mostly families with small children. We've kept in touch with many of them to this day.

Not quite four years later we moved to Sixth Street, only four blocks away. Our house there was quite charming. With red brick walls, green gables and white trim, it looks like a little dollhouse. There was a wooden swing on the front porch, a swingset and the best climbing tree I ever knew in the back yard. My sister and I shared a bedroom which took up more than half of the small second story, as did our gerbils and Sam who, so far as I recall, never threatened to eat them. Our first school , Bach School, was two blocks NorthEast of us and my best friends all lived within two blocks of that. Here is a picture of my sister and I sitting on the front porch swing.

The spring before I turned ten we moved to what we called our 18-month vacation house, on the outskirts of the city. We called it this because it was a house we could not have ordinarily afforded; it was a huge house, with an adjoining acre of land. The owners had an agreement to sell in 18 months, so that was our alloted time. I enojyed the field and the sandbox and the trees and the creek around the yard, the spring that fed into the creek, the swamp to one side of that, the horse pasture to the other side and the pine trees beyond, all to the fullest extent possible. I also got some mice from a neighbor and took them into school; Timidear and Frederick produced generations of mice in that 4th and 5th grade classroom and Frederick outlived them all.

Sarah and I had to take the Junior High School bus every day while we were out there, and the house was really too big to be cozy, so at the end of our stay we were fairly happy to move into a place in town, three blocks away from our school of the time, a ranch house with a semi-finished basement. There was one very important thing about this house: we were buying it! It had a fenced-in backyard for Pepper, complete with dog house, and a two-and-a-half car garage perfect for storing the old car of mom's we take turns promising to fix up. My parents lived there until right around the turn of the century. It changed a lot over the years... We re-shingled the roof and built a gable to replace the covering we tore off of the deck, and repainted the house and garage. The deck, as a matter of fact, was torn down completely and replaced with a new one. The backyard also changed, under the dedicated guidance of my mother. Many trees came down and some were planted. Here's a picture my dad took of me in the backyard in the summer of 1995. During my last year in college they knocked down the wall between the living and dining rooms and made it into a lovely arch.

In 2000 my parents purchased a new house, just three blocks away from the last one! I've never really lived there, though we do enjoy regular visits. It is in a quieter neighborhood and they get more birds nesting and stopping there, which my father encourages at every turn.

With Bill I purchased a house about a mile Southwest of my parents' house, on Dartmoor. Its best features were a screened-in back porch, southern and eastern exposure in the living room and master bedroom, and a big kitchen with the stove on an island in the middle. I have developed quite a fondness for cooking. It was more house than we needed, however, so we eventually rented out a room to my friend Brendan Durrett. Brendan was the Best Roommate Ever and stayed on a year past when Bill left, which was a great comfort to me. I was lucky enough to sell that house in 2009 right when I moved to Ohio. My eternal gratitude goes to my father, who substantially helped me prepare it for sale. My soon to be new husband Brian also helped with that preparation, which didn't hurt in terms of why I decided to marry him.

While working in Ohio, I rented a small house in Yellow Springs, the small town where Antioch College once thrived. I tried to have a garden, but mostly I just made a lot of progress removing the volunteer trees from the pre-existing-but-neglected landscaping.

After Brian and I got married and moved in together, we rented an apartment in Ann Arbor, a house in Albuquerque, NM, a similar house in Ypsilanti, MI, and a delightful house with two ovens and a fancy built-in spice cabinet in York, PA, before finally buying a house in York, on Sleepyhollow Rd. The house we rented in York was walking distance from York College, and technically so is the house we bought, but the new house, which we call Grayhollow Manor, is substantially uphill from the college, so walking to it from the college (or the city) takes, shall we say, gumption. It has a lovely parklike front yard with many trees, and a long covered front porch that stays cool even in summer. My sister Sarah sent us some hammock chairs that turned out to be perfect for the porch. If you haven't tried a hammock chair yet, you're missing out.


I have graduated from my sixth school. It turned out to be a Canadian University. In June 2002 I completed my Master's degree in
Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo. Before that I took a BA in History from Grinnell College. You can see the courses I took at both schools over in my portfolio.

Above in the intro I mentioned how I never went to kindergarten and thus became young for my class. I entered First grade at Bach School and stayed there through the Second grade. For Third grade I entered a mixed class of Second and Third-graders under Ms. Phyllis Faunce-Jones, whom we swiftly nick-named "Fauncy". There I established my love for reading, started learning "new math", and got to know my first guinea pigs. This was in the North-western branch of an experimental "alternative" schooling program, housed in Wines elementary school. I was at Wines through Sixth grade.

For Junior High I moved exactly one block over, to the Middle Years Alternative (MYA) program housed in Forsythe (that junior high whose bus we used to ride). I attended MYA's version of Science, Math, English and Social Studies for 7th and 8th grade, while taking Art, Choir, Home Ec, Spanish, Health, Etc, with the rest of the normal Forsythe Students. The only "normal" class I never took was Gym; I was by this time in the Little Caesar's League of Girls' Travel Soccer teams, and involved in many other sports.

Round about 9th grade I followed in my sister's footsteps to Community High School. I was never in any doubt about going to "Commie High", a public school of choice situated near the heart of downtown Ann Arbor. At the time I entered it, Community's enrollment was 360 students. I graduated in a class of 78, every member of which was technically the valadictorian, seeing as how the graduation ceremony gave us each a chance to address the assembly. In between I was an active member of the student polity {hiring teachers, recycling committee, PTSO, etc.}. I remember feeling like I was a happy and successful student. Later at Grinnell College, when everyone else complained about high school, I was the odd man out. I liked high school, I would announce, and then they would tell me to shut up.


Roughly in order of the age at which I first read them, my favorite books and authors:
last updated December 8, 2023

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