Courtney S. Barr

Welcome to My Kingdom!
Join me, the Princess, on my Royal Adventures in the Land of Writing!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Crazy busy...but making time to play a few games...

Well Marcus & I have been pretty crazy busy over the last two weeks! I feel like I am so out of touch with the cyber world!

Part of it is just busy at work, at home, etc.. but we also have been addicted to our Wii lately. We took it up to Rob & Regina's & downloaded all the classic Nintendo games. Super Mario lives and breathes in our house (ALL OF THEM from the very first to the last version they created) IT IS AWESOME!!! Marcus also downloaded Punch Out!, Metal Marines, MegaMan, Castlevania, & Secret of Mana. I can honestly say that when I sat down to play Super Mario Bros. my mind slipped back 18 years. I could picture my friend Weslyn's house, the smell of Hot Pockets (because her mom can't cook - really cannot cook), and I could see the stuffed animals, the Barbies, and the Nintendo. We played all the time. She had this addiction to Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers. I remember once when it snowed, 1993 I think, we were holed up in my parents house playing Nintendo. She could not get past this one level and let out a loud "Damn it!" my mother had to keep from laughing. We were only like 11 or 12 and that phrase was obviously stolen from an adult, but used correctly. We were chastised, but that memory is still so strong.
Video games are a part of my life. I really thought about this when we were picking out what games to download. They are much like books for me, they trigger memories and almost all of those memories make me smile.
My brother Eric, was a gamer. He loved NCAA Football, PUNCH OUT!, Contra and many others. We would argue over who got to play when, who got to play what, and the fact that sometimes we were forced to play together. Now I look back and a huge grin spreads across my face. More times than not we actually had a great time together playing Nintendo. It was those times that I no longer existed as the annoying little sister & he wasn't just the mean big brother. We bonded. Granted when his friends were over I released the annoying little sister & he released the mean big brother.
High School came & I still loved gaming. Board games, Nintendo, Play Station. I am competitive so games are a part of that competitiveness. I met Marcus & found another gamer. Actually Marcus & Rob were two of the biggest gamers I had ever met. Rather than think it odd for a girly girl to enjoy gaming he embraced it. Here was a level of competition he could do with a girl who was a friend. I could hang my own with the guys in this sense. I had been doing so since I was 9. So at 15 I was actually someone who knew the buttons, knew the games, and knew how to win. Marcus & I both have enjoyed all nighters of strategy role playing games. We spent an entire weekend during college from Friday when the game hit the shelves - came home with us - when into the Nintendo - and the quest of Zelda began. We played from 4 in the afternoon until midnight that Sunday. Stopping only for junk food snacks & the occasional walk outside with the dogs. We had folding chairs up against the TV and we could not have been happier. I sat in the same type of setup more than once with Rob & Marcus.
Now I find myself with a full time job, a dog, a husband, a house to keep clean, food to cook and gaming. We sat Sunday night and played for hours. Every night this week we have played for at least two hours. It will pass and the newness of the old games will tame down a bit.
But we both love that nostalgic feeling that we are getting and also the new memories we are making. Peanut sitting on your chest until you finally put the controller down and just let him lick you into oblivion. Also that while he plays Metal Marines, I thumb through magazines, read a book or we'll mute the tv so he plays without sound but we talk about anything.
So even though work has been a little stressful, life is always crazy and there are tons of things to do around the house; we are still making time for each other & Stevie-the-TV of course :)

Saturday, January 10, 2009


The breeze blows my hair back with an assurance much like the Mayan gods must have had thousands of years ago. The boat sways softly as the sun begins to dip into the azure blue sea; soft sounds of waves, warm rays of light begin to cascade all around me. I find myself looking out into a never-ending ocean and within its waves mysteries, surprises, and life bubbles continuously never knowing my pondering mood or the lives of the humans who scurry above…..
Yeah, ponder is definitely something I found myself doing the first full week of 2009. I was blessed to have boarded a huge ship and set sail for the most beautiful sandy beaches and warm 100 degree sunshine. A tan in January…who would have thought?? :)
The entry passage to this blog is one I scribbled down while sipping a Pina Colada and laying on a deck chair just outside of Progresso, Yucatan. There are not enough words in the English language to describe some of the things Marcus & I viewed last week. Thank goodness I like to write because capturing my vacation in words & pictures was so satisfying. Life is so amazing. Beware – this is going to be a long entry I have a week of vacation to review!
We set sail on Saturday with great aggravation. Fog had settled over Mobile Bay like pea soup and no one could come in or leave. We sat in the Mobile Civic Center (a building that makes the BJCC look like the Taj Mahal) from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. We were supposed to leave Mobile at 4 p.m. Yeah – wasn’t happening. Once we were on board we ate and FINALLY set sail (5 hours late). Marcus & I have the worst luck with room locations by the way. On our honeymoon we were the FURTHEST room from anything, on the ship we were the LAST room at the BACK of the ship by the upper ENGINE. YEP!! We were startled around midnight by the loudest most horrible noise that rattled the room like an earthquake and we got up decided to go “out”. So we headed to the one of the clubs on the Promenade Deck. Well as we went past windows we noticed rather than the oil rigs being behind us they were now beside & in front – we were going backwards. YEP. A young woman got injured about 2.5 hours outside the Mobile Bay and the medics on board could not attend to the problem she had so we had to call the Coast Guard and turn around. YEP. CRAZY DAY! But Sunday was Fun at Sea our Carnival Capers newsletter proclaimed. As we stepped out onto the Lido Deck we were met with blue skies, warm breezes, and a blinding sun – we were finally truly south. Mexico was almost in our sights and the tropical climate was becoming a nice comfortable blanket. We played Bingo, gambled in the casino, I participated in Gem & Diamond lecture series the Shopping Expert was putting on then we put in our headphones stretched out our beach towels and soaked in the glorious sunshine. Relaxation never was so good. We then decided to try our hand at Putt Putt Golf on a ship. Um can you say hilarious?? The holes were maybe 20-25 feet long but with a swaying boat and whipping wind on the highest deck not only did this game create new challenges but it created new forms of exasperation. You actually could putt on hole four and thanks to the wind the ball would start at one end and roll all the way to the hole around it and back to you at the start. I KID YOU NOT! We laughed until our sides hurt. That evening was formal dinner. The very first night (Saturday) after our long wait in the Civic Center we had randomly been seated with 3 other couples: Roger & Shawna from Decatur (we only saw them once more after Saturday), Anna & Pat (daughter & mother from Cullman, Al) and Bart & Tiffani (from Louisville, Kentucky). Well when formal dinner came on Sunday we were pleasantly surprised to find we would only be sitting with one couple for the duration and to our even bigger surprise that couple was BART & TIFFANI! How bizarre. 2000 people randomly sat together & boom we get the couple that we had randomly sat with the night before. Thankfully the four of us got along swimmingly and enjoyed every night.
Monday found us entering Progresso, Yucatan. Marcus & I had scheduled an excursion to visit some Ruins & the beach. We knew that we would want to just explore Cozumel on Tuesday so we figured Progresso needed to be our historical port. Our guides were Carlos & Manuel – Carlos is from Merida in Yucatan, Manuel is from Progresso. Not only were they welcoming they were hilarious. We boarded a big, chartered, clean, air conditioned bus and 25 minutes later we entered another time completely. Carlos had done a great job of telling jokes and inserting a quick history lesson about the area as we rode. At first it was like any park, you went through the entrance, received a ticket, wandered a gift shop area, but then our guides lead us down a simple rocky path. Cactus, stones, sand, dirt, huge red and yellow flowers, birds, iguanas, cats were scattered among the flora. We arrived after about a ten minute trek to what at first appeared to just be another road. But at one end stood a huge stone temple structure and the other appeared a crumbling city. We had reached Dzibilchaltun (tzee-BEEL-chahl-toon). Dzibilchaltun means “writing on flat stones”. This ancient city once was home to some of the greatest minds in history. Here the Mayans created a calendar that is more accurate than any other one to date and their engineers & astronomers studied the heavens. This site also was one where trade was most important to the Mayans. The market here was one of great wealth but when the Spaniards came and took over the area everything changed. A ruin of a Franciscan Catholic Chapel still stands almost perfectly in the center of the plaza. The temples to their gods still shine beautifully and below an area where a Spanish stable stood there is Cenote Xlacah. A cenote is a sink hole found mostly in the Yucatan and some Caribbean islands. These holes are amazing. The one at Dzibilchaltun is around 144 feet deep. YEP. DEEP. But the water is like turquoise glass and the temperature is so cool and just fresh. They are an amazing natural occurrence. These sink holes house crystalline fresh water - not salt water- the only marine life found in each of the sink holes scattered in the Yucatan is one tiny little fish (about 2 inches long, 1/2 inch wide). No snakes, no other fish, nada - it is fascinating. This particular cenote has not shown any remnants of human sacrifices. Around Chichen Itza there are many that still have skeletons in the walls and hieroglyphics that detail the sacrifices. The cenote pictured here that we swam in was listed in their markings as a fresh water source - thank goodness. The atmosphere is surreal and so…oh gosh surreal!!! We jumped off the edges landing with a splash. Our group was hot, tired & ready for some relaxation. After two hours of this surrounding we loaded up in the bus and headed to our next stop: THE BEACH! A private beach with two pools, large beds (yes beds that you could just layout on!!!) on the sand, open bar & REAL Mexican food waited for our tired bodies to just plop down! Anything frozen that tasted of wonderful fruits were brought to us by some of the sweetest guys. They had a blast messing with anyone who had never done a tequila shot or wanted to try something exotic! It was awesome. When 2 more hours later we were back on the bus we all were so pleased with our choice of excursions! That night we heard a great comedian on board, danced to 70’s music in the disco hall and passed out around 2 a.m.
8 a.m. Tuesday we found ourselves enjoying breakfast with a couple from Hoover. We actually only met 5 families from Alabama on the entire trip. After breakfast it was time. TIME TO SHOP!!!! COZUMEL HERE I COME!!! WOOHOO! Lol. Truly we exited the ship and hit the stores with complete abandon. 4 hours later we had a ton of items to come back and pick up at the end of the day. We were starving and had passed Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville two blocks down…. So of course in the islands don’t you find the nearest & best Margaritas???? So we sat down only to find a couple we met on ship there as well as the ship golf pro & art director. After some good food, better drinks, and great conversation Pat appeared (Pat the woman traveling with her daughter from Cullman) and said “Hey we have two extra seats at our table, would you like to join us?” She had been so sweet & seemed like loads of fun so of course we accepted. WELL COULD WE HAVE MADE A BETTER DECISION…. NOPE! 30 minutes, 4 margaritas, and 2 shots later the man himself appeared. YEP – JIMMY BUFFET performed LIVE in COZUMEL on the day we were there at MARGARITAVILLE!!!! Marcus could have passed out he was so excited and just in ecstasy! We literally could touch the man. He signed a hat for Pat and we got some amazing pictures. It was just awesome. We still cannot believe it happened. Then after he played & left we headed to Paradise Beach for more sunshine & beautiful water. This day was so great! Wednesday was my birthday and after two days of crazy non stop action we just enjoyed the ship. The whirlpool, the activities, everything was great. Dinner with our favorite couple, Bart & Tiffani was of course wonderful too! I mean it was our last night. We realized how many people we had met and how great a time we truly had. The staff was so sweet, the friends we made were awesome! Time well spent. CourtneyPalooza 2009 has been a true adventure. Thursday we arrived in Mobile then swept through Camden to get Peanut. Once we finally made it to Tuscaloosa we were exhausted and ecstatic: HOME!! Though I must say these gray skies of January are quite depressing when you have recently seen the sunshine & endless blue of the ocean. Life is full of crazy surprises. We were not sure what to expect and that made each day so much more fun. I am forever grateful to Marcus for being a partner on this journey. I hope you enjoyed the recap & I hope I did not bore any of you.