Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cruisin' With Spunky Senior, Mona Risk

From the Nile Cruise

Cruises are becoming the most common way to see the world and unwind in an enjoyable surrounding. My husband calculated that it was cheaper to board a ship from Fort Lauderdale and go on a week cruise than pay airfare, hotel, restaurants and entertainments.
Carnaval offers good family rate and you see a lot of children on Carnaval ships, especially around school holiday.

Royal Caribbean’s latest creation is a humongous ship called Oasis. Friends told us they felt they were in a fancy hotel with a huge market area, but they lost the special pleasure of the ocean view from every corner as many lounges are set in the middle of the ship. In addition, with so many people on board the service lacked the VIP treatment offered on smaller ships.

My favorite cruise line is Princess. We cruise with them over ten times in the Caribbean, Mediterranean Sea, South America, and Polynesian Islands. I highly appreciate their accommodations, shows and food. Beside, they have special accommodations, wider rooms and bathrooms in addition to wheel chairs for senior citizens and handicaps. Their frequent cruisers are often upgraded to better rooms or suits with vase of flowers, fruits baskets and drinks set in their rooms to greet them.

The Royal Palace in Budapest

Two years ago, we discovered the River Cruise lines: Memphis, to cruise the Nile River in Egypt and visit the monuments of Luxor, Karnack and Abou Simble—what a magnificent treat. And two weeks ago, Avalon to cruise the Danube from Bucharest, Romania, to Vienna, Austria. We also visited Bulgaria nd the Black Sea, stopped in Belgrade, Serbia, and Budapest, Hungary, an unforgettable trip I blogged about twice on

During one of our cruises, we met a woman in her seventies who lives ten months a year on a cruise ship. She sold her house and her car, and explained that on a cruise ship she doesn’t have to fix her room, or prepare her meals. She enjoys movies and performances without having to drive to a theater. She has plenty of books to read, a laptop to connect with the world and makes friends with other travelers. The doctor on board knows her well and takes care of her little problems. Sometimes she joins a tour and visits a new place. Twice a year she spends a month at her children and goes through all her medical checkups, buys her supply of medicine and reserves the next cruise. She told me she was writing her memoirs.
Would you be able to live on a ship?
If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances.
I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with passion.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

RJ McDonnell, Senior Tweener, Fulfills a Lifelong Dream

R.J. McDonnell
Sometimes attaining senior status means finding the time to reconnect with an unrequited passion. For the past few years I’ve been at that awkward age I call Senior Tweener. I have adult children, but haven’t attained grandparent status yet. Instead of attending sports events and dance recitals, I actually had time to pursue an old dream.

Ever since elementary school I wanted to be a rock musician. During my high school years I helped out with a garage band down the street from my home, and picked up mini-guitar lessons during their breaks. I joined my first band in my freshman year at Penn State, and in 1980 I moved to San Diego to pursue music as a career.

But life doesn’t always go as planned. A few months after my move, I was in an accident that shattered my left wrist. After 23 months of casts, braces, bone graft surgery, and rehab, I couldn’t play guitar for more than 15 minutes without severe stabbing pains. Over the next five years I tried everything, and finally resigned myself to the fact that the dream was over.

L-R, Robbie Walsh, RJ McDonnell

Twenty-five years later I visited a guitar collector friend and told him my story. He found me a Fender guitar that was exceptionally easy to fret. In 2007, at the age of 53, I enrolled in lessons at a local music studio, and rekindled my passion in the process. Last month I recorded my first commercial song, playing with Robbie Walsh, a lead guitarist who toured extensively with Noel Redding of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Chubby Checker and Jethro Tull.

The song is called The Concert Killer, and is the soundtrack to a mystery novel trailer. You can hear it at It’s never too late to make dreams come true.

RJ McDonnell

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spunky Senior, The DanZman, Still Rocks!

The DanZman at Mt Prospect Lion's Club
4th of July event, 2009, starring Ronnie Rice.
  Eleven years ago I wrote a story for the Daily Herald about a popular figure in the NorthWest suburbs. Since then, the subject of my story, The DanZman, a Spunky Senior, still rocks non-stop.

With Kerry of Libido
Funk Circus at the
Mane Event 2011, in
Arlington Heights

The DanZman's not a band member, but almost every band in the area knows him personally or knows of him.
When he's in the audience, way in the front dancing where you can't miss him, he almost always gets a call-out from the band some time during the performance. If he's not there, it may be a sign the band isn't too terrific; that is, unless there are lots of great bands playing at the same time. After all, he can't be everywhere.

His collection of band tee shirts has to rival a Valley Girl's shoe closet. When more than one band is featured on a particular night, The DanZman delves into his gym bag and changes shirts to reflect whichever band takes the stage.

Here's a link to my story about him, written in those long ago days before I acquired my pen name -

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Spunky Senior, Morgan Mandel, Owns a Pit Bull

Morgan with Baby Rascal

A Little Older
Rascal with a Sunburn
I never thought I'd adopt a pit bull but that was before I fell in love with a puppy on Adoption Day for Chicagoland Dog Rescue, in front of PetSmart, over 6 years ago. I'd heard terrible things about the breed, which really scared me, but this little one seemed harmless enough when I first met her.

That was before she ate the hallway linoleum and chewed the legs on the rocking chair, and tried to eat a piece of glass I hadn't even noticed was on the floor, yet she'd managed to find.

She's tamed down her eating habits since then, reserving them for grabbing slippers or socks to get my attention.

I'm afraid I've spoiled this vicious pit bull by giving her peanut butter on a biscuit treat in the morning with her breakfast and baby carrots at night with dinner. She does look ferocious, doesn't she? Don't worry, I'm spunky. I can handle her, because I know the secret. She'll do almost anything for another treat.