Wednesday, February 24, 2021


Last month I had my second Moderna vaccination. How lucky I am to benefit from this potential life saver! Even though I’m over 80 years old and have underlying health conditions, because of the fierce competition for vaccination I’m one of the small proportion of that group to have actually received it. If I were not living in a retirement community that includes a skilled nursing facility, I might have to wait months for even the first shot. (Correction: Recently the rules for prioritizing elderly people for vaccination have relaxed, and now I think anyone in an independent living facility is eligible. Hurrah!)

Being vaccinated is only the latest advantage of life here. Yes, it’s expensive, and I had to sell my house to have enough money to move in. (Whether the money will last until I die is another question. I am cautiously optimistic.) However, having a safe, reasonably comfortable old age is the best use I can think of for my money. Not having any children waiting anxiously to inherit my home or money, I can be selfish about this.

I can understand people who want to continue living in their own homes as long as possible, but that way of life may be overrated. Those who live alone may have very little social life. Transportation is a frequent problem. Planning and cooking meals may no longer be enjoyable. Medical problems such as arthritis can make even simple housework very difficult. For me, all these drawbacks outweighed the positive aspects.

Deciding what items to take to an independent living facility can be difficult. Many people have children who are willing to store some items, and that can help greatly. Being childless, I had to make final decisions when I sold my house and had a series of moving sales. From what I’ve seen, the most common mistake is taking too much. A writer friend of mine insisted on taking boxes of books, unpublished manuscripts, and other writers’ paraphernalia, and could scarcely move in her small apartment. The living space may look large in a floor plan, but it’s limited. Just as if you’re packing for travel, you need to concentrate on the items you really will use. For me, that meant taking electronics such as a laptop computer and printer; my old desk (which has a lot of drawer space) and other basic items of furniture; a few books and a Kindle; the basic wardrobe that had served me well during years of RV travel; financial files; simple kitchen equipment; some pictures and photo albums. It was a little like packing for dormitory life when I went to college. Now as then, the most important places where I spend time are common areas—activity rooms, a gym, the dining room, the library, and so on--rather than my own apartment. This game room is across the hallway from my apartment.

This may sound very Spartan, and it is. However, the dirty little secret of this life is that people leave continually, deciding to move in with their children or dying. The contents of their apartments are often sold to residents at very low prices. If you find that you actually need or want some item you didn’t bring, you can probably replace it. I had an old, small TV when I moved in, but soon bought a large, nearly new one to replace it for $40. A friend bought a lovely designer purse for a few dollars.

Selling my large collection of books was traumatic but necessary, and it forced me to pack only the books I would actually open again or couldn’t bear to give away. If I want to reread a book that I no longer own, the local library will deliver it, or I can order a digital or printed copy. As my vision deteriorates with age, I find it much easier to read books on my Kindle reader than as traditional printed books. In addition, the Kindle’s built-in dictionary and links to other sources are very helpful. Altogether, I have been pleasantly surprised to find I’m no longer clinging to hardbound books. When I do succumb and buy one, I may pass it on to another resident after finishing it.

Most facilities provide transportation to medical appointments and other places. I sometimes miss having my own car, but can always rent one if necessary. (During the pandemic, I feel a little uncomfortable about using ride services.) A friend sometimes gives me a ride. Not having expenses associated with owning a car help greatly with paying my monthly rent.

Altogether, this is a good life. Even five years ago, I might have felt too restricted. Today, I am grateful not to have to worry about home ownership. Aging itself presents problems enough, and I can concentrate on them rather than on trimming shrubs or paying high home-insurance premiums.

Copyright © February 24, 2021 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Wednesday, January 13, 2021


After seeing a PBS documentary recently, I went to the bookcase and took out my personal copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter, which was given to me in 1945. At the time I was interested in reading other things, such as Wonder Woman comic books, and so I never got around to reading the remaining Little House on the Prairie books. Now I have read this one, and can fully appreciate Wilder’s writing. She showed readers her own remembrances of nineteenth century life for a poor family far from city life. Though The Long Winter is considered a young-adult book, Wilder never talked down to readers, and even adults can read it with pleasure.

By 1945, some critics had already begun pointing out the prejudiced attitudes in Wilder’s books, and some of the early editions were revised accordingly. In The Long Winter, Ma (Wilder’s own mother) “didn’t like to see women working in the fields. Only foreigners did that. Ma and her girls were Americans above doing men’s work.” When Pa went into town and was warned about the storms to come, the warning came from “only an Indian.” He came home and described the warning, and “Ma looked as if she were smelling the smell of an Indian . . . Ma despised Indians.” Somewhat to his credit, Pa answered “there’s some good Indians.” in another of Ingalls’s books, someone says the awful “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Yes, remarks like these make us cringe today. It’s understandable that Native Americans and other groups have protested the books’ use in schools and libraries, even when they are used as examples of prejudice. However, it’s good to consider the context. Early in American history, both Indians and white settlers engaged in terrible acts. If the Ingalls family only heard stories of settlers being tortured, they might well have been frightened enough to believe the worst.

In my own childhood, we hadn’t advanced very far. In the forties and fifties, I heard patronizing or prejudiced attitudes toward Blacks. Living near a resort area, I saw many Jews who came out from Chicago. As in all tourist groups, a few of them were obnoxious. I often heard the words “kike,” “sheenie,” and so on. It would be many years before I fortunately met enough people of other races and religions to lose my prejudices, and to marry a Jew. If I had written a book about my own childhood, I might have included remarks as bad as those in The Long Winter and other Little House books, simply to show accurately how my own community behaved.

I have been lucky in this respect. Spending many years in various schools and working for or with a variety of people, I have overcome those attitudes. There are still many who have not had my privileges. Though yahoos and hypocrites stir my anger, I can understand them also. Yes, we need to be sensitive to concerns of minority groups, and to speak and write carefully. On the other hand, we should avoid a revisionist approach to history. I hope the Ingalls books stay on bookshelves along with enlightened comments about them.

Copyright © January 12, 2021 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Sunday, December 27, 2020


My life has changed enormously during the past year. Back in February I was leading a life of what Thoreau called quiet desperation, spending too much time on just trying to live a healthy life. At the age of 82, it was simply too hard to shop for food, prepare it, wash the dishes and cooking utensils afterward. These tasks, which once made up a small portion of my day, took over my life. I stopped writing, did too little reading. My social life revolved around rare trips to the library and frequent visits to doctors’ offices. For a long time I had been considering moving to an independent living community where meals and transportation would be provided. It also might provide some social life. I had lived for year in the area and made only a few friends. My partner is good company but is somewhat of a hermit. I was lonely, missed interaction with interesting people. Would moving to a retirement community solve my problems? 

Then the decision was taken out of my hands. I had a minor accident in which I was unhurt, but my car was totaled. To this day I am unsure what happened. I remember pulling into a parking space at the library, braking as usual. Suddenly my foot was on the accelerator, and I didn’t react quickly enough to brake. I crashed into a concrete wall. Did my foot just slip because I was momentarily inattentive? Or did I have a TIA? I suspect it was either a TIA or some other temporary mental difficulty that might occur again at any time, and would rather not take a chance on it. Instead of replacing my car, I stopped driving. Perhaps I’ll go back to it at some point when I regain my self confidence. In the meantime, the bus at the retirement community will take me to many places. I like public transportation for environmental reasons anyway. 

 Soon after reaching that point, I was gobsmacked along with others by the pandemic. Now the retirement community looked like a safe refuge from covid-19. I began preparing to sell my house, though for a couple months real estate offices were closed. Finally they reopened, and my house went on the market. Again, I expected to have a long wait before anyone bought it, but within two days I had a more than acceptable offer. The next month was a whirlwind of activity. Moving sales, frantic packing, mountains of paperwork to be completed. Suddenly I found that most of the contents of my three-bedroom house had been transported to a one-bedroom apartment. It’s a little crowded, but somehow it worked. I’ve lived here for about four months now. 

So far I am extremely happy with my new life. The building I live in is a little bit like a college dorm, with people around at all times. Someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning, and I actually have time for blogging and other writing. Lovely gardens are tended by others. My balcony looks out from the second floor into trees, so I may resume the birdwatching I began long ago. My new life has begun. I will continue blogging about it, and am curious about how this will turn out. Will I get bored with my insulation from “normal “ life? Or will I have the time and space I’ve craved? Where to from here?

Copyright © December 27, 2020 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Wednesday, December 9, 2020


One morning the old guy who lives down the hall walked up and asked loudly whether I had been out drinking in the parking lot the previous night. What? Finally I figured it out. I had gone out to gaze at a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, and of course had looked up through my binoculars. From a distance and in a dim light, the binoculars looked to him like a bottle. I tried to explain, but he looked skeptical. This place is a gossip mill, and I’m probably pegged as a drunk now.

And then there is Moose. (Though I avoid using real names here, I can’t think of a good substitute, and of course Moose is just her nickname.) I’d heard some people mention her, and had a mental image of a hulking, awkward creature. Instead, she turned out to be the petite, graceful woman I’d seen dancing when a local band was performing. Moose is a hundred years old, and proud of it. She could pass for 80. Not only is she youthful and graceful, but she’s sharp and funny.

I used to think old people were boring. One of my grandmothers lived to be 96, and I could have asked her so much about her life that began in the nineteenth century, but I didn’t. By the time my mother died at the age of 101 I had wised up a little, and we had many good conversations about her life. Now that I am old, I can appreciate the elderly people around me. We have lived through events that seem like ancient history to the young. Not only do we remember them, we can see and describe them in the changing contexts of surrounding events, attitudes, and fashions. We are better able than younger people to understand and forgive those who may seem racist or otherwise intolerant.

Copyright © December 9, 2020 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

Friday, October 16, 2020


A beginning student of anthropology is likely to be struck by the amount of time “primitive” people must spend on finding food. They hunt or gather, perhaps cook over a fire made of sticks. In comparison, those in modern societies may seem to spend little time on getting food. 

Until I became an octogenarian, I blithely shopped for groceries, cooked meals, and cleaned up afterward without thinking much about the time it took. Eating-related tasks seemed to occur almost in spare moments. Then, as I aged and my health declined, I found all that work burdensome. 

Since moving to an independent-living apartment, I’ve found that I suddenly have much more time on my hands. Though I still spend time eating (most of the meals are delicious), someone else has taken care of all the work involved. I am extremely fortunate. 

My meals are delivered to my door in Styrofoam containers. Plastics are an ecological nightmare but a necessity during the pandemic.

 Meanwhile, many people who are quarantined or otherwise forced to stay home because of the pandemic are having a harder time than I ever did. They may have to shop in off hours to avoid crowds, practice social distancing, wear masks or other protective gear, search for items that no one has touched. Stores often run out of popular items. 

Even worse than lack of time for getting food is lack of money. As the pandemic has damaged the economy, many workers have lost their jobs or are making less money. They may even have to choose between paying the rent or buying enough groceries. At this time—shockingly in this wealthy country-- fourteen million children in the U.S. have too little nutritious food. Only a few years ago, obesity seemed to be a major pediatric difficulty. It still is, but now it is more likely to result from reliance on cheap but fattening foods. Getting enough protein and vegetables is hard for those on low incomes. 

We can no longer take food for granted. Like those in third-world countries, we are suffering from too little nourishing food for all citizens. Sadly, our political leaders are largely to blame. I can only hope that in the next few months, we will elect leaders who can reverse this trend. 

 Copyright © October 16, 2020 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone) 

Sunday, September 27, 2020


The past few months seem all too much like the late sixties, when after centuries of oppression and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., African Americans grieved and rioted. Back then I wanted to be part of the civil rights movement, but did only a very small bit. I wrote letters to newspapers, helped to integrate an all-white neighborhood in Chicago. It was all too little, of course. Others fought and died in that battle.

While Chicago police clubbed demonstrators in Lincoln Park, I lay in a hospital bed recovering from surgery. It gave me an excuse for not doing something more, for merely being on the sidelines of a major battle.

Now I am 83, “too old” to go out and march in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the murders of George Floyd and others. It would be ludicrous, I say to myself. Would police treat gently an old lady using a walker? They might, considering my age and “white privilege” status. If they clubbed or tear-gassed me, that might be a useful protest, but I’m too cowardly. Once again, I will watch braver souls on TV, write the occasional letter, and hope that this time there can actually be an improvement.


 Copyright © September 27, 2020 by Carol Leth Stone (a.k.a. RovinCrone)

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)