Sunday, June 28, 2020


Jessica Bennett wrote in a recent New York Times article that there is a silver lining to the mask problem, at least for women. Those of us who don’t smile continually no longer have to listen to remarks like, ”Hey, sweetie! Lighten up and smile!” Unless we knit our brows and scowl, we look like anyone else. For all anyone knows, we are smiling broadly under our masks.

Maybe it’s genetic. My father was a handsome, serious man who wore a pleasant expression but seldom smiled broadly unless he was laughing. For years, no one bothered him about it, but by the time he became a school principal in the sixties, things had changed. As you can tell from comparing school photos taken in the fifties and sixties, smiling for photos became mandatory around 1960. No one sent the memo to my dad. Finally, when he had to pose for a faculty photo, the frustrated photographer shouted, “Smile, Henry! Smile!” He did so reluctantly, and the result was gruesome. He looks like someone who has a few too many drinks. I saved the photo and used to tease him with it. Mother, on the other hand, smiled easily and often.

Though the smile mandate caused a slight problem for my dad, men in general seem able to look serious without being criticized. In fact, it seems to give them an advantage in business and political situations, where looking too happy may make them seem too lightweight. Women, in contrast, are expected to smile in social situations, but to look and act only slightly serious otherwise. We can choose between seeming too accommodating and being perceived as shrewish.

Smiling has different connotations in different cultures, too; German waiters seem to take pride in looking severe, while American servers of both genders may smile too often for customers’ comfort. Both groups must be handicapped by the current need to wear masks.


Thursday, May 28, 2020


The kind of office you have was once a status symbol. When I began working for the American Medical Association in the early sixties, I shared a small windowless office with another editor. One day some workers came in with a bag of tools and began measuring the door. We asked what was going on, and were informed that they would be installing a coat hook. We pointed out that there were two of us, we were enduring a brutal Chicago winter, and we needed two hooks for our coats. One guy looked at us pityingly and said, “Lady, this is a one-coat-hook office! “ Oh. Subsequent experiences at the AMA confirmed that lesson.

Later in the sixties, working happily for another employer, I had a small but sufficient office to myself. The furniture was old, and my file cabinet was far down the hall, but other editors were near by for conferences and “reading back” galley proofs. I even had a window providing the natural light editors need.  That office was fine.

By the seventies, the cubicle had arrived. Mine featured all-metal furniture designed to keep me from moving and wasting any time. Files, an electric typewriter, and other equipment were compressed into a tiny claustrophobic space.  A thin metal partition separated my cubicle from another editor’s. As everything I needed for editing was in the cubicle, my only excuse for leaving was to visit the restroom, which luckily was far down the hall. Drinking a lot of water provided that excuse. After a few years in cubicles, most of us gained weight (what was then called “secretarial spread”) and were miserable. Recently I have heard with horror of “toilet cubicles” that can be inserted in cubicle-based offices. I don't even want to think about it.

Since around 1990, office workers have seen some long-overdue changes in their workplaces. Computers have made many changes possible. Telecommuting has become popular at companies where workers must drive long distances to the office. Some workers have been able to work at home, using email and other methods of communicating with fellow workers and clients. This has been an especially welcome change for those who have children or elderly parents to care for.

A home office can be essential for some. After my husband had a heart attack and my mother moved to California, I set up a very comfortable home office so that I could be a caregiver as well as a writer and editor. It was successful in many ways, but I missed the contact with others (even that spooky secretary who looked like Morticia Addams and who glided in silently once a day to drop some galleys on my desk). I no longer had easy access to training programs, just when computers began dominating the publishing world (and that’s another story). Essential as a home office was for us, not being visible in a physical office ended my original in-house career. I was able to set up my own small business, The Stone Cottage editorial service. From then on, I was self-employed and did more writing than editing.

Those who continued working in more traditional offices also have seen changes. The open office plans in many companies are planned to encourage collaboration and sharing ideas more than individual thinking and introspection. Some Silicon Valley offices have become so luxurious that workers (especially young single males) have few reasons to go home. I’ve heard of some who sleep in their offices, hit the gym and shower in the morning, then go back to work.

Currently the pandemic has changed the workplace for nearly everyone. Some are forced to work at home, whether they want to or not. They may have to use Zoom for meetings, Skype for one-to-one conferences. Many are discovering the advantages of having a home office and may never voluntarily go back to working in a traditional office.  Others are too constricted by the arrangement.

It’s impossible to predict now what offices of the future will be like, but certainly they won’t be like those of the past or present. If I were a young, single textbook editor now, with the power to design my own workplace, I’d choose to work in a home office two or three days a week, where I could concentrate without interruption. During the rest of the week I’d go to the publisher’s main office, where I could meet with authors, confer with other editors, and work with artists. Perhaps I could share office space there with an editor having another schedule, and our office would have two coat hooks. Hopefully the glass partitions, masks, and other protective equipment needed now will soon be unnecessary.

 Copyright © May 28, 2020 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Thursday, May 21, 2020


Using personal protection equipment (PPE) to protect ourselves and others from transmission of the covid-19 virus sounded simple and noncontroversial for a while. Why would anyone not want to take precautions against spreading a terrible, sometimes fatal disease? Medical and other endangered workers use long coverall garments as well as N95 masks and gloves. For the rest of us, the CDC recommends simpler masks (even cloth bandanas) as a backup for social distancing (remaining six feet away from anyone not in our own household), frequent hand-washing, and other simple hygienic measures.

For some reason, using the masks has become a line in the sand for some people. Shouting “liberate” or “freedom” as if they were charging the Bastille, they tear off their masks and refuse to wear them. They are mostly loyal Trump followers; he has refused to wear one himself, saying that he can’t greet heads of state wearing a mask. Some others have more murky reasons that seem based on their belief that someone is conspiring to deny them a Constitutional right to go wherever they want to, breathe on anyone they please, even carry guns into the Capitol of Michigan. They cite dubious claims by “experts” that the masks do little to protect wearers and may even harm them. They may confront security guards and clerks violently and have even killed some of them.

Actor Clayton Moore wore this mask (now in the Smithsonian) when he played the heroic Lone Ranger on television.
 What is it about the masks that enrages these people so much? Surely they don’t worry about looking like bandits, for they are joyfully acting like criminals. Masks are slightly uncomfortable, especially if ill-fitting or worn very long, but that doesn’t seem like a sufficient explanation for the fury. A Facebook friend has proposed an amusing hypothesis that they associate wearing a mask with wearing a condom, which might explain some cases but is too gender-specific to account for others. Judging by their signs and statements, many of the mask haters seem to be right-wing Christians. Could they be afraid of looking like Muslims or some other religious group they dislike?

While many refuse to wear masks, and some of us wear them merely as a sensible precaution like wearing boots in snowy weather, a few liberals have happily embraced them as an obvious political statement that has actually added some fun to the controversy. Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, wears  color-coordinated masks to match her fashionable clothing and proclaim her support of using masks. (Melania Trump has done the same, presumably only as a fashion statement. It must drive her husband crazy.) In Paris, some Muslim women who wear burqas have pointed out that formerly the face-hiding burqas were illegal in France, but now not wearing a mask is illegal. What are they supposed to do?

With any luck, this whole subject will seem quaint by the end of the year. We will look at photos taken during the early pandemic stages and smile at the foolishness, just as we look at clothes in old movies. At least, I hope that’s how it turns out.


 Copyright © May 21, 2020 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Only a few months ago life was “normal,” whatever that means. We walked around without masks, hugged each other or held hands as we walked, enjoyed being close to others.

Now unless we want to chance catching the covid-19 virus, we behave nervously. It’s important to stay six feet away from anyone who does not share our home. We try to stay outdoors when possible, hoping the virus will be diluted in the air before it can harm us.

Recently I learned that my first husband has tested positive for the virus. At one time I loved him greatly, and have never wished him any harm. I hope the test was faulty and he will be well. How many others in my life will be sickened before this ends? Will I catch it myself? At the age of 82 I am quite concerned.

David Brooks, one of my favorite The New York Times columnists,  wrote recently that he could see the country unifying in response to the crisis. For once, I disagree with him. Thanks to Donald Trump, who cares only about being reelected and enriching himself further, the pandemic has quickly become as politicized as everything else in the U.S. Recently I posted some simple information on the local NextDoor site about wearing masks and keeping social distance to protect those of us who are vulnerable. You’d think I had attacked capitalism itself. I was called a virus Nazi who doesn't understand herd immunity.  Many think opening up businesses must happen immediately to protect unemployed people. Yes, they are suffering financially. For those of us who may die, the suffering is worse.

 Copyright © May 19, 2020 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Monday, May 18, 2020


Over the past several years I have blogged about my travels less and less, both as a result of aging and because I haven’t been able to travel much. I’ve felt I was still a crone, but not a rovin’ one, and probably had become a boring one. Still, I do want to continue blogging and other writing for as long as I’m able. No one has to read it.

What to do? I considered starting a new blog, one that would focus on the years to come. I could call it Endgame, End of Life, or other depressing title that would hardly inspire me or any readers. Finally I started to think of the final years of my life as my chance to come full circle, making sense of my life and possibly even passing some crone wisdom to others. Making my “garden grow,” as Candide advised. So, instead of beginning a new blog, I decided to forge ahead with this one, focusing on rovin’ to my final destination. Thus this post's title, Arriving. I hoped in early March of this year to bring back some former readers and attract new ones along with indulging myself in philosophical speculation and snarky remarks about politicians.

And then, in what seemed overnight the world changed forever. We are all living in a covid-19 pandemic that may continue for years. I have been brooding about it, advising others to practice sensible rules for health, and trying to stay sane and healthy myself. I have no idea now what the future holds, but am fascinated and curious about the possibilities for good and bad. We can count only on profound change. My blog posts are likely now to be reflections of that new world view. Some readers may prefer to lurk only, which is fine, but I hope some will comment or send me emails with their own thoughts, and we can all travel toward some good place together.

 Copyright © May 18, 2020 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Eight weeks with no haircut! The salons are still closed.

Monday, November 4, 2019


Now I have some idea of what life must be like for refugees. No hot water, no electricity, no laundry, no cell phone service or internet access. For about a week my small town in California was blacked out by PG&E in a supposed attempt to protect the public from wildfires. During a short reprieve lasting less than a day I was in a hospital for an important procedure, and came home in pain to a cold, dark house.

For more than 40 years I have been a homeowner in California, and like millions of others have certainly sent a good amount of money to PG&E. Why did they not use their enormous income for repairs and tree trimming instead of paying high salaries to some employees and huge stock dividends to investors?

Living in this state has always been expensive, but it used to be worth the cost. Now I would go back to the Midwest if I could, but at the age of 82 I cannot simply move again. I am greatly saddened to see this once-great state turn into Purgatory.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

MY 20:20 PLAN

Much as I hope the year 2020 will bring about a political upheaval, this post is not about Trump. The older I get, the harder it is to accomplish everything I need to. I know getting nine hours of sleep a night is essential for me, but if there’s a good NOVA program beginning at ten o’clock, or if I’m reading an absorbing mystery, it’s almost impossible to go to bed early. Though I carefully write to-do lists and show priorities, at the end of the day there are always some items left over. Also, I simply don’t have enough energy to do as much as I want to.

Still, I’ve worked out a plan that helps greatly. Maybe it will help you, too.

It’s called a 20:20 plan because I alternate tasks that require some physical work with those that can be done sitting down. I start the same way that many people do when they are organizing time, by writing a to-do list for the next day. (Sometimes I can also soak dirty dishes overnight or use other time-saving tricks. And, it’s nice to get up in the morning and find a schedule laid out for me.) After each item on the list, I write A, B, or C. "A" means an appointment or other task that absolutely must be done that day. Usually there are no more than two or three “A” items. "B" means something that should be done that day if possible. “C” items can be put off until another time if necessary. (There tend to be many “C” tasks.)

As to the 20:20 aspect, after breakfast I spend 20 minutes on some basic housework tasks. If the time is up before I finish, I stop! Then I sit down and read, write, or otherwise do a resting task for twenty minutes. Again, at the end of twenty minutes I stop whether or not I’m finished, and return to doing some physical task. By alternating in that fashion, in a few hours I have worked my way down the list through the most important tasks for the day. I  realize this method sounds very inefficient. Too many times, I must interrupt a job in the middle just because the time is up. However, it seems to work well for me. It’s amazing to discover how much I can do in twenty minutes, and I find that I can do just about anything for that long. Knowing that in a few minutes I can relax and read helps me get through physical work that would be impossible if continued for hours.

Like most elderly people, I hope to age in place, staying in my own home as long as possible rather than moving to an expensive assisted-living situation. So far the 20:20 plan is helping me do so.

 Copyright © August 17, 2019 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Sunday, July 14, 2019


Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. Most of us who were alive in 1969 remember the event exactly. We remember his “giant leap for mankind,” the photos of Armstrong and Aldrin bounding across the moon’s surface. I, too, remember it vividly, but with a bit of embarrassment.

At that time I was in Yuba City, Cal, editing the preliminary manuscript of a science textbook being written by some Yuba City authors. I stayed for long periods in the Bonanza Inn motel. On the night of the moon landing, I had a light, early dinner in the motel coffee shop before going to my room to watch the TV coverage. Curses! The set wasn’t working, and I was unable to get another one that night. Then I recalled the large TV in the bar. Certainly even the local rednecks who frequented the bar would be watching the moon landing that night.

Yes, the event was on TV. I climbed onto a bar stool and ordered whatever alcoholic monstrosity was appropriate for that time and place (probably Seven and Seven), then settled down to watch. The Apollo 11 had already landed safely, and surely one of the astronauts would emerge soon. Unfortunately, there was a very long wait, requiring my ordering more drinks. During the hours that followed, I continued watching and drinking. Finally Armstrong stepped out onto the moon’s surface! And I carefully slid off the bar stool. Walking back to my room, I looked up at the moon (or were there two?) and marveled at the idea that a human being was actually up there, and our journey to space had begun. The next day’s hangover was worth it.
Copyright © 2019 by Carol Leth Stone

Monday, June 3, 2019


Elon Musk has done the “impossible” again. Now he has lofted the first of thousands of satellites that will use solar power to travel in a connected path around Earth, with the ultimate goal of enabling people anywhere on the planet to access the internet. No longer will those in remote places be cut off from the amazing amount of information found on the World Wide Web. Musk argues that disadvantaged people will be given greater access to the planet’s resources and information sharing. However you feel about the sharing or trolling this will make possible, you have to admit that this will change lives forever, and that Musk has accomplished something incredible.

Some of us are less than enthusiastic about having 24/7 access to the Net, though. In fact, we will even travel long distances to reach places where we are cut off from it. Those are getting harder to find, but parts of the planet still have no Net access at all. There, hikers, campers and kayakers can escape temporarily from the Net’s cacophony. Many such places are in the national parks.

With Ranger Kevin Sweeney at Lassen
A few years ago my partner and I did some volunteer work in two parks with Night Sky programs: Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, and Acadia National Park in Maine. We watched enthusiastic amateur and professional astronomers set up their telescopes and help novice users to scan the heavens. Children and adults gasped as they saw the Milky Way for the first time, or saw the rings of Saturn. Apps for cell phones can be interesting and helpful, but they don’t hold a candle to seeing the real thing.

Many professional astronomers have already objected to the satellites on the grounds that they may interfere with studies of distant stars and planets. Musk insists that the satellites will only be visible during limited times, and that astronomy will not be affected.  Not being privy to the details of the project, and not being an astronomer, I can’t comment on that, though I have my doubts.

What I can object to is the change in the night sky this will produce. My field is science education, and I have seen how viewing the natural night sky can motivate children (including the astronomers of tomorrow) to learn about the heavens. They need to have the sense of wonder that can be found in a lonely, Net-less dark place where they can see stars and planets the way the ancient Greeks saw them.. They do not need to see a series of satellites.

 Copyright 2019 by Carol Leth Stone

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


For many years I have made a point of declining plastic bags at the supermarket, ostentatiously piling items into a reusable bag or asking for a paper bag instead. This has enabled me to feel superior to many other customers and to think I am saving dolphins and other marine mammals. Today it is actually illegal in some states to supply free plastic bags to customers.

Imagine my horrified surprise when a recent NPR report said that in areas such as California that have banned free plastic bags, purchases of plastic trash and garbage bags have increased. It makes sense when you stop to think about it—most of us don’t want to drop garbage or dirty trash into the bins that are emptied weekly. We carefully package those things in plastic bags first, and if we can’t get free bags at a supermarket, we buy boxes of them instead. What a dilemma for us environmentalists!

Rather than giving in and polluting the environment with large, purchased bags, I’ve come up with a few workarounds, as follows:

1. Before shopping, I make a list. What items do I really need?

2. In a store, I carefully examine packaging. Can a spice be bought in a glass or paper container rather than a plastic one? Can soft drinks, in aluminum cans rather than plastic bottles? Can I buy large economy sizes, minimizing the packaging per unit item?

3. On the way out, I use a reusable nylon or canvas bag, keeping in mind that it must be used many times to pay its way as a replacement for a plastic bag. Some items, such as large oatmeal containers, can be carried to the car by hand or in a supermarket cart. No plastic bag is needed.

4. At home, I remove any wrappings (preferably made of paper) and set them aside to be used as small trash bags. Yes, these are a bit more awkward to use than large plastic bags are. I simply think about those videos of dying aquatic animals and do a little more work. It is rather surprising to see how many small  bags are available this way. Unavoidable wrappings of large packages of toilet paper or paper towels, sanitary pads, prepackaged fruits and vegetables, and many other items can provide bags for trash and garbage.

Though this seems like a very small contribution to the environment, if enough of us follow these steps rather than using large plastic bags, we can make a difference.
Copyright 2019 by Carol Leth Stone