Sunday, January 25, 2015

Nags Head, North Carolina Adventure

January 25, 2015

Another adventurous week that was calm and peaceful sometimes and crazy and chaotic at other times.   And generally those two opposing conditions occur in the exact same place - the office!   At some times of the month, I have a fair amount of down time with not much financial work to do at the office.   I have started indexing records for Family Search and find it quite interesting.   I sometimes spend 15-20 minutes stuck on one name or set of names wondering what brought them to the U.S. or how they lived - were they farmers and mostly lived off the land or did they have some other occupation.   This last week I did some census records from New York and found it interesting that in the time of that census, people were considered minors until age 21 unless they were married.   That got me to thinking so I "googled" age of majority and found that is set by the states and most states have it set at 18, Alabama sets it at 19 and several others set it at 18 or graduation from high school.   Very interesting since the definition of age of majority is the age at which a person is considered adult and is entitled to all the rights and responsibilities of an adult.  Funny how we continue to learn new things in most unusual ways.

This was a better week for Elder Ashton as there were NO ACCIDENTS!!!  However, he is still trying to take care of all the details from the 3 that occurred on Friday, January 16 and I have heard him lecturing/encouraging the missionaries about safe driving habits :)

When we left our apartment on Thursday morning, we were greeted by foggy weather - couldn't even see to the corner from our parking lot.   By mid-morning most of the fog had burned off but the weatherman was warning us of rain predicted for Friday and Saturday.

On Thursday the President and Sister Baker were in the office to interview missionaries.   I think they had interviews scheduled every 15 minutes all day so there were missionaries coming in and out of the office all day long.    It really brightens my day when they show up......makes me think of some of my grandkids who are about that age and I love to see how energetic and focused they are.   They go around the mission (mostly to the North Carolina areas) and then have the Virginia missionaries come to the office to conduct interviews every quarter.    That is a lot of interviews to conduct!!!!   We are scheduled to have our first quarterly interview with the President tomorrow morning......that means we have been on our mission for 3 MONTHS already.   We have served 1/6 of our time and it is hard to believe that --- seems like time is passing fast and I am still learning some new things about my "job" here.   Last week I learned that I am supposed to be validating a credit card billing report and hadn't done that for the last two months, but I finally figured out how to run the report and got it reconciled on Friday morning.   We are scheduled for an audit sometime in the next month so I hope I am doing things right :)

We played hooky for 1/2 day on Friday (with the President's permission) and headed south to Nags Head, North Carolina for a retreat with the other senior couple missionaries and President and Sister Baker.   A member of the church owns some beach rental houses down there and because this is the off season and they aren't rented out, we were able to use two of them.   I wasn't sure how enjoyable the weekend would be due to the RAIN - it had been raining most of Friday and the prediction was for rain most of Saturday, too.   As we head over ANOTHER bridge on our way out of town Friday afternoon, I notice lots of boats and begin to realize what a huge role the water plays in the lives of people who live here.

We soon leave Virginia behind and enter North Carolina......and it is still raining :)

On of the continuing themes I have heard about North Carolina since I have been here is that the people are REALLY nice....and that seems to be true.

Looks like NC has some pretty strict rules about texting and driving.   We saw about 10 of these warning signs as we drove down the coast.

Last week when we visited Edenton, NC we stopped and visited the Dismal Swamp and the Dismal Swamp Canal.   I believe I mentioned that the Dismal Swamp canal lost some of its business for moving goods when the Albermarle-Norfolk canal was completed.   We crossed over the Alobermarle-Norfolk canal several times on the trip down and in a couple of places noted water craft on it......but I was too slow getting my camera out (or maybe Elder Ashton was driving too fast ;-) ) so I missed getting a picture of that.   

As we are driving along this beautiful 4 lane highway, right beside the road - with no protecting fences- is a small cemetery.   You guessed it - we quickly did a u-turn and headed back, parked right on the side of the road so Elder Ashton could image the graves.   It is a good thing I usually carry my Kindle with me because I can just pull it out and read a story while he images to his heart's content :)  We saw many cemeteries during the trip - large, small and in-between.   I wouldn't be surprised if we take a few more trips to NC so more images can be taken.

Before reaching the Outer Banks, aka Nags Head, we had to cross over an arm of the bay.   The bridge was only a couple of miles long but I though it was interesting that all I could see was different shades of gray - the gray bridge, the gray water, and the gray clouds!

We arrived at the property about 5 p.m. and many of the senior couples were already there and busy preparing dinner.   My assignment was to bring fresh fruit to snack on so I spent a few minutes cutting the grape bunches into serving sizes, cutting up the pineapple, de-hulling the strawberries and peeling and sectioning the oranges that we received from Arizona.   Everyone seemed to enjoy the fruit and the cheese and crackers so much that the sister in charge of the main dish finally threatened us all with no dinner if we didn't quit snacking ;-D   

We were staying in a beach home with 10 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, a game room, a kitchen/great room, a pool and hot tub.   Very nice property!

View from the back deck of the property.   Note the two observation decks even further down toward the beach.    I loved hearing the rush of the waves and it was just sprinkling rain when we got there but it soon opened up and began pouring I went back inside.

We  had a lovely dinner followed by a testimony meeting where the President and Sister Baker asked us to respond to one of three questions.  1)  If you could do something for only one day, what would it be?  2) What is something you would never do again?   3) What is a favorite memory of a time you spent with one or more of your grandparents.    Most of the group responded with a memory about a grand parent and it really hit home to me what a HUGE impact grandparents can have in the lives of their grandchildren - in just the little, everyday kinds of things.   

I wanted to add a little variety so I told of the trip we took to Florida when the kids were all still at home (I think it was in 1985).   I related about the rainstorm that soaked all of our clothing and then about waiting 3 extra days to see the shuttle blast off because it was delayed due to weather and hopping in the mini van at 4:30 in the morning and heading back to Arizona.   Four drivers and 39 hours later we arrived home.....and I vow to never do that 39 straight hours of driving again!

After the testimony meeting we gravitated to smaller groups where we continued to snack, visit, play games.

I'm involved in a mean game of dominoes with two other couples - couldn't get Elder Ashton to join in but we had a great time.   In fact. I was having so much fun that I stayed up until just after 10 p.m. and that is quite awhile after my normal bed time :)

President and Sister Baker and Elder and Sister Shaw playing Skip-Bo and munching on chips.   This was the first time I saw President Baker in jeans.   I knew he was tall and skinny but didn't realize how tall and skinny until I saw him in jeans.   I think he must have a 45" inseam on those 501's :) 

The "visiting" group.   The Elder on the right of the picture is from Juneau, Alaska and he also shared what he won't ever do again.....He won't ever leave Alaska again- says he really misses it!
The elder sitting under the "tree" on the right hand side of the picture grew up in Green River Wyoming.  His wife is the dark-haired lady on the right hand side of the picture.   They have only been married 1.5 years and are the newest couple in the mission.   They are working with military men and women in North Carolina and said it is quite a challenge.   Both of them lost their original mates in motor vehicle accidents unexpectedly, met on the internet 10 years later and decided to marry.   Between the two of them they have 18 children and 57 grandchildren.   Maybe they came on a mission to have some time just for the two of them ;-)

We finally got tired and all headed off to bed.   Breakfast was served the next morning at 7:30 but Elder Ashton had to come wake me up about 8:15.  First thing I did was check out the back door only to find it was pouring rain and the tide was in so I knew I wasn't going to get a walk on the beach this time.

 I had never tried a yogurt banana split before (that was one of the main courses for breakfast) and I skipped the banana part but found the rest of it (yogurt, blueberries, strawberries, sliced almonds, whipped cream) to be quite tasty.  After some clean-up performed by the whole group, we were ready to head north again, but before we did, President and Sister Baker modeled some new jackets that Elder and Sister Steffler gave to them - their daughter does monogramming for an occupation and she had monogrammed each jacket with the name and logo of the Virginia, Chesapeake Mission.

I forgot to take a picture of the place we stayed but the following pictures are representative of what it looked like......ours was a sedate light brown color.

As you can see from the pictures above, the weather was really not nice at all, but I really wanted to see the Wright Brothers memorial which was only about 8 miles up the beach from I agreed to brave the weather if we stopped.

This monument to Orville and Wilbur Wright is at the top of a hill (you may remember that they launched their flight from the top of a sand dune).   The marquees indicated that the dune had moved 400+ feet south by the time they started to build the memorial so it is not in exact same location.

A view of the front of the memorial.   Elder Ashton said the hike up the hill to the memorial was about a 28% grade, it was raining so I was carrying an umbrella, and because it was so steep I was using a cane to help me up the hill......I must have been quite a sight, especially when I kept putting the umbrella down to try to snap a picture.   I don't know if the goosebumps I got were related to my admiration for their bravery and tenacity or from the wind and rain.....but I'm going to say they were from admiration!

We stopped to see this replica of the aircraft.   As I looked at it, the thought crossed my mind that these brothers must have been very brave men.....that plane looks rather fragile to me and here they were trying to make it fly - something no other person had been successful at.   Just imagine what that would feel like when it lifted off the ground.....I would probably forget to manipulate the rudder and end up nose down in the dirt!

This photo depicts some of the local men who helped them with the aircraft.....they had to literally carry it to the top of the sand dune and it weighed about 400 pounds.   I read that the wind was blowing at about 20 miles per hour so I'm sure the journey to the top of the dune was quite a challenge.   It is great to have loyal friends who support you in your adventures and dreams!!!!

And this view.....brought tears to my eyes - the brother running along side and cheering him on.   It made me think of all the times I have observed my kids supporting and cheering each other on as they follow their dreams.    It really tugged at my heart!

Next stop - the museum to learn more details about the Wright brothers.

I learned they opened and ran a bicycle shop (first repairing and then manufacturing) to make money to pay for their experiments in flight.    The two bachelor brothers lived in a small house in Dayton, Ohio with their father and their sister and I imaging they spent hours and hours and hours and lots of dollars trying to make their dream come true.

In 1901 they build a wind tunnel to test the lifting effects of the wing surface.

Note the Old Man in the background reading EVERY word on EVERY placard :)

The "Engine"

I found this intriguing.......Elder Ashton had some drawing tools much like those and in a case much like that one when we got married.   

Drawings of the propellers.

Terrible picture of the bicycle sprocket that drove the propellers.

One of the propellers.

Some of the tools of the trade used by the Wright Brothers in various occupations they held over the years as they followed their dreams.   As you can see they are described as Newspaper men, mechanics, inventors, designers, builders, engineers, pilots - pioneers!
As I walked through the museum and learned more about these men, I was struck by how many of their characteristics are held by Elder Ashton....bicycle repair, mechanic, printer using a printing press, inventor, designer, made me pause and reflect on the many gifts we are given by our Heavenly Father to benefit us and others while we journey here on earth.  Sure am glad I am married to a man who has and uses many talents!  We experienced a sad day a couple of weeks ago when we had to pay $150 to have our vehicle repaired......I've never had to do that before because Elder Ashton has always taken care of that.

Model of the aircraft

Model of the glider

As we got ready to leave the museum, I noticed the "gaggle" of geese - 33 to be exact.   Maybe they also know something about this being a perfect place to take off on a flight ;-)

Still raining and by now I am soaking wet - both my jeans and my sox and shoes so I tell Elder Ashton I am ready to head on home - we will have to do more sightseeing on another day.   As we are heading back up the coast of North Carolina, we see lots of interesting things that I think our family members would be interested in.....on large Harley Davidson rental place that I'm thinking my son-in-law might want to check out and a few "monster" race tracks that other family members might like.

Arrived home Saturday afternoon, hurried to start the laundry and go grocery shopping before heading to Saturday evening session of Stake Conference.   It was a a great session but I liked the session this morning even focused on Coming to Christ.    Made me do some soul searching about my relationship with Him......and also made me think about how glad I am that I am healthy enough to be out here trying to serve others.    I still miss family and friends like crazy but I may have found a resolution to that problem when I went to the post office the other day.   I ran across this apartment complex and it looks like it has plenty of apartments to house all my family and friends if you want to move back here so I won't miss you for the next 15 months!

Unfortunately I didn't get close enough to take the picture of this but it is named "Ashton Village"    Anybody game to come live in this rainy place ;-) ?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cultural Adventures

January 18, 2015

It has been more than 2 months since we arrived in Virginia and I am just beginning to adjust to some of the cultural differences......and there are quite a few of those such as language, weather, customer service standards, etc.  

One of the cultural differences I thought I noticed early on was more people smoking than I see in Arizona.   I asked Elder Ashton if he had noticed that and he said he had not.  However, when we stopped to get gas on Tuesday morning, I looked up at the front of the mini mart and saw LOTS of advertisements for tobacco.   I don't know if they still grow tobacco back here or if there connection with it stems from long ago.   How many different tobacco adds do you notice on this storefront?

Streets and roads are another difference back here......we have spent quite a bit of time lost and trying to find our way.  On Tuesday I had an oncologist appointment in Norfolk (the town right next to Portsmouth) and although I had been to Norfolk 4 times, I was a little nervous about finding my way there and back.  You see, roads do not run in straight lines back here.....they curve all around and turn into something entirely different.   But, if I am going to be here for another 15 months, I better find my way around, so I squared my shoulders, put the address in my phone and let Siri guide me to the appointment.   We went under the tunnel and over the bridge and around the military circle and ended up right where I needed to be with no wrong turns  - then repeated the process coming back to the office.   That coupled with the doctor telling me everything looks good and I don't need to come back for 6 months made for a GREAT day.....and I found a new best friend back here - her name is Siri:) Actually I met some very nice ladies at the doctors office and had some pleasant conversations with them.   Being a cancer survivor seems to give us an instant bond with each other.   The two ladies I talked to were trying hard not to stare at my missionary badge so I explained to them that I am from Arizona and back here serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   One of them asked me if the church made me come back here and was kind of shocked when I told her we volunteered to serve.   One of them came from London, England 35 years ago and still has a lovely British accent.  I enjoy meeting new people and learning about their cultures!

Another difference is the weather.  I've mentioned before that we get lots of rain and gray skies and that the weather changes quite often.  When we walked out of the apartment on Wednesday morning we were greeted with the remnants of freezing rain.  

If you look closely at the above picture you can see the tiny icicles that formed on our patio railing.

When we got to the truck we were greeted with ice patterns that had formed all over the truck.  I thought it was beautiful, but it was really COLD!   And as I sit here typing this today, I hear the wind howling outside - guess I better dress accordingly before heading out the door for church :)

One of the locals told us that even though they get one or two ice storms every year and even a snow storm or two, the towns and counties are not prepared to deal with it.  Most of the area schools had a two hour start delay on Wednesday and some of the missionaries down in North Carolina had to be confined to their apartments because the driving conditions were too hazardous.   You can't go hardly anywhere here without having to cross a bridge or two and they are treacherous when it is icy.

It was cloudy when I got up this morning and by the time we left for church at 10:45 it was raining in buckets.   I was soaked through on my left side from shoulder to toes and my hair was really wet ---- even though I was carrying an umbrella.   However, by the time we left church 3 hours later the sun had broken through and it has turned out to be a rather pleasant day.   Looking forward to sunshine for the next two days before we have another day of rain on Wednesday if weather predictions are correct.

I am very interested in the different flora back here - some of it is fascinating to me and I can spend lots of time contemplating what makes the specific plant grow like it does.   I really like the look of the trees below....seems like they grow in tiers and sort of remind me of something you might see on the plains of Africa. (They are called longleaf pine).

One of the interesting things about these trees is that they have a very tall, straight trunk before the branches begin when they are mature.   However, when they are babies, they start out to look like grass and as they grow they sort of look like any other pine tree, until they get more mature where you see the longer trunk.   We have what I would call a teen-age tree outside our front window.....the needles are really long and fall off the trees leaving a thick carpet of pine needles.  

This is what it looks like as a baby

This is the end of a branch on our "teen-age" long leaf pine outside our front window.  I think the needles are about 4" long.

Another tree that is quite common around here is this one.   The missionaries told me it is a gum tree.....don't know if that is correct or not.

This was just one of a number of these trees located at the Great Dismal Swamp rest area/visitor's center where we stopped on Saturday morning.

The parking lot was littered with these seed pods from the trees......I wouldn't want to step on that with my bare feet!!!

I try to process rent payments for all the missionary apartments about the middle of the month prior to the rent being due on the 1st of the month.   That was my task for Friday and it took me most of the day to validate that I was paying rent on the right apartments.   We have lost more missionaries than we have gained in the last 2 transfers so we are closing up some of the apartments and moving some missionaries from one apartment to another in the same it has been a little challenging to keep up with all the changes and get those entered in the software.   I spent about an hour conferring with the housing coordinator to make sure I knew what all the changes were, about an hour updating the information in the software and then another 1.5 hours validating that I had made all the changes correctly (I am famous for transposing numbers when I type them so I wanted to make sure I hadn't made any of those mistakes.   Finally, about 2 p.m. on Friday I was ready to process the payment for 94 apartments and pay the utility bills for another 7 apartments that had come in the mail.  I also had to contact our apartment manager who left a note on our door indicating the water bill had not been after I contacted Salt Lake to make sure they had sent the check and that it had been cashed, I called and talked to the manager....he had credited the whole payment they received to the apartment for the other senior couple who lives in this complex but assured me that wouldn't happen again.  Even though it can be frustrating to get calls about unpaid bills, I really do enjoy working to solve the problems and seeing a successful outcome!

Elder Ashton had been busy helping two sets of missionaries who had called to report they had been in accidents and when he got that taken care of he was getting "antsy" so I suggested he leave for awhile and go for a bike ride.   I only had to make the suggestion once and he was headed out the door......said he got a 15 mile ride in and I could tell his stress level was lower - until the phone rang about 15 minutes later and it was another missionary reporting he and his companion had been in an accident and the companion was in the ambulance ready to go to the hospital.   As Elder Ashton tried to talk to the missionary who was reporting the accident, he could tell that the missionary was very confused so Elder Ashton told him he thought he should go to the hospital to be checked out.   Then Elder Ashton had to call the Mission President who was in North Carolina at the southern end of the mission where he had spent the week interviewing missionaries.    My understanding is that the President came home, either that evening or the next morning......Elder Ashton and I went ahead with our plans to feed dinner to the two Elders (missionaries) that work around here.   I fixed sloppy joes and the fixings and gave them home-made chocolate chip cookies for dessert.   They said they liked the food and we had a pleasant visit with them.  BUT, I am such a mom - I didn't sleep very well on Friday night as I kept waking up and worrying about all those missionaries that had been in accidents.  One is a young man from Chile who has only been here a couple of months.   He seems quiet and shy and I kept thinking about him being in a big hospital where he didn't know anyone and his care-givers could not speak his native language.   His leg is broken and both Elders had concussions but it is my understanding they have both been released and the Elder from Chile will see an orthopedic surgeon this week.   Worrying about "my missionaries" is almost as bad as worrying about my own kids/grandkids/great-grandkids :)

When we go on our sight seeing adventures, I sometimes feel like I am a bobble-head with my head going back and forth trying to take in all the sights and yesterday was no exception.  We decided to combine work with play as Elder Ashton needed to deliver a car to a couple of missionaries in Edenton, North Carolina.   Their car needed an inspection for the state of Virginia (because it is licensed here) and through some mix-up didn't get the inspection when they were up here a couple of weeks Elder Ashton got the assignment to deliver the car.  We left mid-morning on Saturday to drive the approximately 70 miles to Edenton.....but it is not like driving the freeways out west.  Most of the freeways here have a speed limit of 55 or 60.....Elder Ashton was really excited when we came to a stretch (about 10 miles) where it was 70 mph!

The first place we stopped was at the Great Dismal Swamp rest area/visitor's center.   We stopped to look at an old "locomotive" that was used to harvest wood from the swamp.

Do you notice the manufacturer's name?

I then started along a short walkway and stopped to read the sign....

I was considering walking the nature trail and thought I could probably make it the entire quarter mile, but when I read the final phrase on the sign, my legs suddenly felt too weak to walk 1/4 mile and I started clearing my throat to make sure I would be able to scream loudly if I came across any snakes! ;-)

The water appeared very murky to me and I was looking intensely to see if I could find any snakes.   Since there was no information about alligators being in this swamp, I decided it must be too cold for them here.   We did learn that the area is heavily populated with black bears, wild cats, and poisonous snakes.

We picked up some literature in the visitor center before heading on down to Edenton (another 25 miles and learned that the area we had just seen is known as the Dismal Swamp Canal.   Originally the Dismal Swamp was believed to cover over 1,000,000 acres.   In 1763 George Washington suggested draining the swamp and digging the canal to open up better transportation on the water (mostly for the harvest of lumber.)  Construction (digging) commenced on the canal in 1793.  The canal is 22 miles long and was totally dug by hand, mostly by slaves.   It connected Edenton, North Carolina (a shipping port) with Chesapeake Bay.  It is the longest operating hand dug canal in the country.  The canal and the swamp it runs through have a storied history - it was strategic in civil war battles and strategy and was also home to several maroon (run-away) slave colonies.   It became a part of the maritime underground railroad for run-away slaves to reach the north.

I also learned that the water is not black as it appears but is called amber water.   Some of the acids that leach out of the cypress and cedar tree bark turn the water an amber color (about like tea) and the water was thought to have healing powers.   Ship captains would take kegs of the water on long voyages because it remained potable for a long period of time.

We left the visitor's center (without seeing any snakes) and went on to Edenton.   Since we arrived a little after noon, we offered to take the Elders to lunch....they got big smiles on their face when we offered to do that.   I was asking them about their service there and they told me there is a branch of the church in Edenton with about 100 members of record but they generally get between 25 and 40 people to church.   They said the economy is quite depressed and there are not many jobs since the peanut plant closed down and with so few active members they don't get very many dinner appointments.  In fact, Elder Garcia said he "cooks" lots of sandwiches but also said he loves being there.   The young people are so enthusiastic about sharing the gospel and working hard - and having a good time while doing it.

We dropped the Elders off so they could go to their 2 p.m. appointment and traded out cars.   Then Elder Ashton and I decided to spend a little more time exploring Edenton......Elder Ashton was having a great time taking pictures of headstones in the small cemeteries around and I was having a great time taking pictures of historic homes and buildings.

Although there have been a few changes made to the courthouse, it is still substantially the same as it was when it was constructed in 1767.   Samuel Johnston who represented North Carolina in the Continental Congress and the Senate and owned a plantation near Edenton, heard cases here and Joseph Hewes, a signer of the Declaration of Independence was one of the original commissioners assigned to raise money for the courthouse.   I didn't get a chance to go in, but we intend to go back on another Saturday and I certainly plan to tour the inside then!  I think it would be very interesting to see such historic halls of justice.

As you can see from the two photos above, the Baptist Parsonage that was built in 1889 has been transformed into a bed and breakfast.  There are a number of the historic homes that have been turned into "Inns" , some are private residences and several are for sale.   Those that have been restored look beautiful from the outside!

I love the detail on the old homes.....and marvel at how they could make them so  beautiful without all of today's power tools, etc.

Many of the homes fly a U.S. flag and have rattan chairs or rocking chairs on the wide porches.

Circa for most of the homes was late 1700's to mid 1800's however one was 1903.

Sign explaining the history of the Edenton lighthouse.

I have been surprised to learn that not all lighthouses are tall circular buildings.   I found the architecture of this one very interesting....and although I did not go inside, Elder Ashton indicated there was two bedrooms upstairs, a kitchen and a parlor downstairs so it must have been constructed expecting that the lighthouse operator would live there.

I laughed when I saw these seagulls perched on the end of the walkway - seemed like they were pretending to look for food in the water while hoping that some tourist would drop food that they could eat instead :)

The same group of seagulls with a motor boat enjoying the day on the sound in the background.

I did not have enough energy left to do any more walking around so we decided to head back to Chesapeake and the apartment.   As we drove north, I looked out the passenger side window and saw more swamp land all along the road.....I could see where they had cut down trees that were growing in the water and had not hauled them away yet, also saw some men hauling off old wood.   I wondered how they could build a smooth 4 lane divided highway across that swampy land (swamp on both sides of the road.....Elder Ashton said they must have hauled in lots of dirt.

We stopped once again at the swamp and walked along a different board walk but didn't see much because they were getting ready to close in 30 minutes.   Elder Ashton and I will be visiting both these areas again - he has some biking paths he wants to ride and some cemeteries he wants to image and I would like to explore the swamp a little more and go inside some of the historic buildings.  

One of the swampy areas as seen from the boardwalk.

I loved this mirror image of the trees in the Dismal Canal.

As I spend time among the people of this region and visit historical places, I am learning to appreciate how easy and blessed my life has been.   Some periods in history must have been extremely difficult and I am blessed to be the recipient of blessings brought about by the sacrifices of many of those who went before me.

And I think I'm on the verge of adopting the language so I encourage "all y'all" to contemplate the blessings you have because of the sacrifices of those who went before you.