Trip to Ireland: Cobh Heritage Center

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Cobh Harbor and Cunard’s Queen Victoria on May 7, 2015.

If you’re looking for a place to explore maritime history, go no further than Cobh (pronounced “cove”), Ireland. This place is right on the water and has seen ocean liners from the very beginning of immigration during the potato famine to sending prisoners in horrific circumstances to Australia to the Titanic‘s last stop before setting off on its ill-fated voyage to rescuing the Lusitania survivors to the morning of May 7, 2015, when Queen Victoria came into the harbor.

Cobh Heritage Centre

After a very traumatic experience of my three-year-old hiding from us in the museum gift shop for fifteen minutes leading to my frantic search all over the harbor (and as a testament to Irish hospitality, every one around us helped in the search), we finally found him silently crouching behind some sweatshirts. I experienced the Cobh Heritage Center alone. I wish now that I had insisted on everyone joining me because it was the best museum in Cobh. Looking from the outside, I did not expect it, but the small museum is filled with history, artifacts, and very informative  and exciting exhibits.

Cobh (III): Cobh Heritage Centre

My favorite part (besides the Lusitania artifacts) about the Cobh Heritage Center is that it takes place in the original station with signs pointing the way for first class, second class, and third class passengers. The small museum’s location is historical in itself. If you haven’t noticed by now, at every historical place I visit, I spend time taking it all in, imagining what it would have looked like, smelled like, and felt like throughout time.

At Cobh’s Heritage Center, I imagined what it would have been like for victims of the Lusitania disaster to stumble into this station, dazed with the day’s tragedy–many unable to comprehend that their lives would never be the same.

Visit the Heritage Center’s website for some great pictures of their exhibits. I will just highlight a few of my favorite pieces from the museum here:

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  • Artifacts from previous voyages on the Lusitania, including stationary, images, and passenger accounts.
  • The room portraying survivors of the Lusitania in the Queen’s Hotel comforting one another. So powerful–it was like stepping back in history.
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Message in a bottle sent from the Titanic.
  • The message in a bottle. When the Titanic began to sink, a passenger took it upon himself to write a message and send it in a bottle to his family. It eventually made it to shore and the Heritage Center has it on display.
  • A very well compiled video of actual footage of the Lusitania. I wish I knew where to locate this online. I am almost positive that I saw it on YouTube before we left, but I could be wrong. If anyone knows how to locate it, let me know.
  • The replica of a ship’s deck, making me feel like I was walking back in time.

I would go back to Cobh in a heartbeat, and there’s so much more to share about it. I visited one more museum on Wednesday, and then spent Thursday night experiencing the centenary events. I will share all of that soon. For now, let me know if you have any questions or would like more tourist information, like where to eat and stay. We stayed at the perfect bed and breakfast in Cobh with a delightful owner. It was right on the water and only a few minutes walk to city center.

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My Trip to Ireland: The Nomadic

SS Nomadic
SS Nomadic

On our way to the Titanic Belfast, we passed this small boat that looked like a miniature Titanic. I had read a bit about it before we left, but afraid of the added expense, never assumed we would go. Then, as we (I, rather reluctantly) left the Titanic Belfast museum, we walked right toward it. I was very curious about what it was and its significance with the Titanic and our guide from the Discovery Tour informed me that it was the tender ship, the original boat that once took famous passengers–John Jacob Astor included–from Cherbourg, France to the Titanic since the Titanic was much too large to go to the pier to pick them up. John Jacob Astor, his wife Madeleine, and many other first and second class passengers of the Titanic had actually set foot on this small tender ship.

The SS Nomadic was built by White Star Line; therefore, it had much of the same materials and craftsmanship that the Titanic did, which is why they looked so similar. The Nomadic had been found just a few years before and was about to be scrapped, but Belfast Titanic museum saved it and restored her to her former glory, using some of the same materials as the White Star Line did 100 years earlier. You can see the restoration process on their Flickr page. One of my favorite stories was this:

The Nomadic had been looted at some point in her history. Thieves snuck aboard and took apart the most expensive pieces of her, including the clock over the bar, and sold them for money. Then, years later, after Belfast Titanic put out requests to find a clock like the original to replace above the bar, an auction house replied and sent a clock to them that looked like the picture. The clock fit like a glove. Historians for the Titanic Belfast compared the serial number of the new clock with the serial number of the original clock–it was the very same clock that hung over John Jacob Astor when the Nomadic sailed for the Titanic.

Steering the Nomadic
Steering the Nomadic

The best part about the Nomadic was that nearly everything was open for exploration. You can turn the wheel, climb the ladders, sit on original furniture, play chess, kids could play with toys downstairs, and you can even play dress up. My three-year-old had an absolute ball and did not want to leave. He loved the projection of the captain who told about the ship.

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And, not wanting to be a tourist, I was just going to let the bow of the ship go without reenacting my favorite scene from the film Titanic, but at my father-in-law’s suggestion, I decided I was a tourist and I might as well act like one. Jeff and I stood at the bow of the Nomadic and he sang “Come, Josephine, in my Flying Machine” with our arms outstretched.

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“Come, Josephine, in my flying machine”

Needless to say, the Nomadic was one of the highlights of the entire trip.

My Trip to Ireland: A Review of the Belfast Titanic Museum

Titanic Belfast.
Titanic Belfast.

Our second day in Ireland, I woke late in the Hilton-Belfast exhausted from staying up all night with a jet-lagged three-year-old who only wanted to play from midnight to 5:00 a.m., but as soon as I pulled back the curtains to view the industrial city with silver clouds and streaks of golden sunlight over the brown buildings, I remembered my itinerary.

The Belfast Titanic museum, the same museum that had once housed my picture, but thanks to the end of James Cameron’s exhibit, I’d missed it. One day!

Titanic Quarter
Titanic Quarter

I dressed quickly, scarfed down our free breakfast of sausage and eggs, and we all began the jaunt to Titanic quarter. Before the trip, I’d studied this walk on Google Maps and had expected the walk to to be much longer than it actually was. As we walked, I imagined what it might have been like 100 years ago; men lining up to go to work preparing for another grueling day with little pay and backbreaking, dangerous labor surrounded by the smell of melting steel and burning coal.

We walked along the water and I wondered if the water molecules had any memory of holding the Titanic, gently rocking her in the bay.

Belfast Titanic museum in the background. (And a photobomber)
Belfast Titanic museum in the background. (And a photobomber)

Then I turned the corner and there, over the water, stood the spectacular new museum. Designed to mimic not only the Titanic’s bow, but the iceberg that sealed her fate, and the steel that built her, and looking from above, a star from the White Star Line’s flag. The amount of careful thought that went into the symbolism of the museum astounds me still.

The museum itself was impressive. It was more focused on Belfast’s contribution to the Titanic than on the actual voyage and sinking, with a ride around the recreated slipways so that you could really see what it was like for those men who built her. The sinking portion, though, was the part that took my breath away. It took place in a dark room, black. With only a video of the ship sinking and the telegrams sent and received by the Titanic as she sunk. This room reminded me of something I had forgotten. The Titanic sank in the middle of the pitch black ocean. Nothing was around them. I had never before imagined what it would have felt like to be on the ship surrounded by nothing, how lonely and final and terrifying it must have been to even be placed on a lifeboat and sent into the darkness with no idea if help was coming, if getting on a lifeboat was just prolonging the inevitable. The ship would have seemed so much safer than a small lifeboat in the middle of a dark abyss.

CQD was the signal Titanic used to ask for help, sending the code over the water to anyone that would hear. Titanic was also the first to use the now common SOS, but CQD was what its operators, Harold Bride and Jack Phillips, used the most.

The dark room in the Belfast Titanic museum was filled with telegrams sent back and forth from the Marconi officers to other ships. And then at the end of the room on the wall was the final telegram from the Titanic:

CQ….

He, whichever operator it was, never finished the “D.” What happened? Was Harold Bride shouting at Jack Phillips, telling him to get out? Did the room fill with water? So many questions and no answers.

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Owen standing in one of the points of the museum overlooking the slipway where Titanic was built.

The Discovery Tour was worth every penny and my favorite part of the whole visit. Our guide was terrific. She took her time and I felt her passion with every word. We explored the shipbuilding offices and peered out an original window from over 100 years ago, and I imagined what it would have been like to see the steel giant on the slipway looking out the same window Thomas Andrews must have used hundreds of times.

The original window in the drawing office where Titanic was put on paper before being built.
The original window in the drawing office where Titanic was put on paper before being built.

Walking up and down the slipway where the museum had recreated the boat deck, down to the placement of the benches, and near the bow was a memorial created for Thomas Andrews by his nephew. My respect and love for Thomas Andrews increased, which I didn’t even think was possible owing to how much respect and love I already carried for him.

The slipways.
The slipways.

Walking the “deck” was powerful for me. The visit was very profound and spiritual for me. The whole trip to Ireland was like my very own Mecca. Ireland connected me with history, my teenage self, and my current self in a way no other trip could have. But more of that later.

Miss Possible: Overcoming the Self-Imposed Barriers to Education

Trafalgar Square

The only thing better than education is more education.

– Agnes E. Benedict

I just completed my first online course, Computer Science 101. When I found out Stanford University offers the course free, I couldn’t say no. The course covered very basic information about coding, spreadsheets, networking, and computer security.

I am now planning to take as many free courses online as I can. I have just signed up for the “How to Learn Math” course from Stanford, and four courses on Coursera.

Education is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and a great way to show love. If I ask my husband the question, “What would you do if you had a billion dollars?” His answer is never buy a house or never work again, but always, “I’d learn everything I can. Take every class on every topic–become a Renaissance Man.”

I have always admired that about him, his desire to learn and do something new. He has been a wedding photographer, graphic designer, a reupholsterer, a DIYer, a chef, a painter, an artist, and a computer programmer. He inspires me.

You know who else inspires me? Other women, like the two above who are creating dolls like Marie Curie or this commercial. How different would my life be if instead of getting Barbies and baby dolls, I would have received engineering toys? Growing up, I always preferred boy’s toys to girl’s. What if there was no distinction between the two? Boys could play with dolls and girls with legos or vice versa.

From the time I can remember, I believed, truly believed, that girls are just bad at math and science (something in our brain or in the extra X chromosome?), so whenever the subjects came up in school, I had an excuse not to excel. I excelled in every other subject, but math and science, I threw my hands in the air because, you know, I’m a girl.

Thinking about this, I started to feel bad about the missed opportunities. How I chose English instead of computers in college when I had a passion for HTML and CSS. English was amazing and opened so many doors for learning, but I could have excelled in computers as well.

I may not be a little girl any more. I may not be a college student with an opportunity to choose any major I want, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop learning. I don’t have to feel bad, but remember that I can learn until I die. I hope that even when I’m 90, I’ll be reading and keeping up with the ever-changing technological world, maybe playing the newest video game.

Education knows no age or gender, so maybe instead of spending an hour on Pinterest, I can spend an hour on Coursera, or better yet, close my computer and open a book (gasp!).

 

Two of My Favorite Parenting Books

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 9.39.44 PM When I first found out I was pregnant and for the entire nine months afterward, I spent hours a day pouring over every pregnancy, baby, and parenting book I could get my hands on (does every first-time parent do this?). Instead of tossing and turning with my big belly and sciatica (okay, I did a lot of this too), I was mesmerized by my bright iPod screen and the Kindle app reading books like Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and The Baby Book.

Those books were great for preparing for my baby’s physical needs, but didn’t do much for preparing me for raising him, especially for dealing with “the terrible twos”–which I actually didn’t believe existed. It does. The books also didn’t help much with dealing with postpartum depression. After studying and reading a variety of books, blogs, and exploring different parenting paradigms, I’ve discovered a truth that my father-in-law, who taught family psychology at BYU-Idaho for 30 years and holds a PhD in Educational Psychology, had already tried to teach me:

Parenting books should be about the parent, not the child.

A majority of parenting issues arise not because a child misbehaves, but because the parent holds negative energy from his or her own childhood that prevents real connection, connection with the self and by that same token, connection with the child. And while I am certainly no expert on this subject, the lessons I’ve learned from these two books have helped me immensely to learn how to protect and honor my child’s spirit while discovering my own. It’s an amazing and difficult journey to recognize that your child has a soul. He (or she) does not belong to you. He is his own being, his own person, that you have the privilege of teaching and your child will teach you.

If you are interested in exploring these ideas further, check out Dr. Shefali Tsabury’s website and her Ted Talk. I’ve posted a clip from her interview with Oprah before. Watch it if you haven’t already. I believe the things she teaches are key to discovering your own self and by doing so, to helping your child discover his.

Here are two books that have helped me on my journey of self-discovery and in turn have helped me become more aware as I discipline and teach my own son.

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Compassionate Childrearing by Robert W. Firestone “It is vital for us to remember that children are not our possessions; they are not ours in the proprietary sense of the word; rather they belong to themselves and have the right to an independent existence” (17).

Perhaps the most painful book I’ve ever read, Compassionate Childrearing continues to be my teacher. My father-in-law recommends it as the one and only parenting book you ever need.

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The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabury

“It’s no surprise we fail to tune into our children’s essence. How can we listen to them, when so many of us barely listen to ourselves? How can we feel their spirit and hear the beat of their heart if we can’t do this in our own life?” (read more quotes here)

I plan to write an in-depth book review of this eye-opening book, but until I do, let me just say that Tsabury’s ideas are transformative. They focus on bringing awareness to not only the parent-child relationship, but also the relationship you have with yourself.

As a mother of a two-year-old and an expert at research, I am certainly no expert at parenting, but the above books have given me tools that I had been completely unaware even existed. If you are a struggling parent–or just want to learn more about yourself–I recommend them because they’ve helped me delve into myself in ways that continue to change me daily.

That said, I am always looking for more books to read. Comment below and recommend some for me.

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