Monday, November 24, 2008

Psalm 139

Below are our latest ultrasound photos (19 weeks 4 days). The 45 minutes spent with the tech were among the most enjoyable of my life. It was with wonder that I considered in what a privileged minority Becca and I can consider ourselves--the ability to "see" our child in the womb! How many trillions of husbands and wives through history never even dared to dream of something as now routine as an ultrasound.
The greater sense of wonder came as the words of Psalm 139 filled my mind tonight in the glow of the ultrasound monitor:

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are you works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." -Psalm 139.13-16
What a sense of wonder and awe is a father's to peer behind the curtain at the masterpiece that God is crafting. The same God at which David marveled is the same unchanged God at which my own father marvels. I can only hope that the gracious Creator is even now instilling a sense of the fear of God in my unborn son greater than that of his fathers.

"How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!" Psalm 139.17

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

200,000 Miles

On my way home from work on Hallow's Eve, I reached 200,000 miles on my truck's odometer. Pictures from the milestone are below. You may remember my post from when I hit 172,777 miles in November 2007. [An update to my geographical extents: the farthest north that I have travelled in my truck is now Henrietta, NY.]

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Encore Pumpkin
Our church Bible study meets on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month. Because we are such a hip, cool (emergent?) small group, we decided to meet for social get-togethers during months that have five Wednesdays. Megan and Aron hosted this past months' Fifth Wednesday.

Below is the pumpkin that Becca and I collaborated on. Guess who copped out of cutting the complex stars.

The best part of Trick-or-Treat this year was the myriad compliments that parents and kids paid Becca as she answered the door. We (read: mostly me) are striving to lock up the reputation as House With the Awesome Carved Pumpkins every year.
P.S. Harass Aron at his blog to get him to post pictures of all the small group pumpkins.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pumpkin Carving Date Nite 2008

Included below are results from our pumpkin carving date nite. Click each picture to enlarge it.
Becca's is the classic Jack-O-Lantern face. Mine is the free-hand Sherlock Holmes sihouette (I look down on those who use templates/stencils).


Scott's BEFORE (35.79 pounds!)/AFTER:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Yankee Stadium Update

For those of you who haven't frequented the Bronx lately, I took some pictures this week of the exterior of the new Yankee Stadium. eNjoY.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Counting Walnuts

With the purchase of our house its previous owners threw in a black walnut tree at no extra cost. It is a tree that stands over 30 feet tall in our backyard and has a trunk almost 24 inches in diameter. According to the property survey, the tree is ours because its trunk is contained on our side of the property line (barely)...and that couldn't make me happier.

Our majestic black walnut tree sprouts with leaves later in the spring than most trees, but blankets 2/3 of our backyard with shade throughout the summer. It starts to drop walnuts in late August, and is completely bare by mid-October (I don't touch a rake after the third week in October). I love our beautiful black walnut tree and, sadly, I am not completely joking when I say that I have developed a bit of a Jonah-style crush on our tree (see Jonah 4). I did not plant the tree and in my 1.5 years serving as Head Groundskeeper at 30 Broad Street I have done nothing to cause the tree to improve in any way--I haven't even named it (Editor's note: it is an unproven fact that the life expectancy of a car, machine, or other large, complex, inanimate object increases dramatically if that object is referred to by name. For example, Becca and I, not wanting to take the risk of having our boiler unexpectedly burst into flames, have named him Brutus the Boiler). I merely pick up walnuts before I mow, spend a few hours raking leaves in October, and I am otherwise hands-off when it comes to the tree.

But about those walnuts...

I wish I had an excuse better than 'curiosity,' but I don't. I wish I could say that I counted each and every walnut that fell from our tree this year because I want to be able to document and track the health of the tree by comparing walnut crops from year to year. I wish I was following through on a promise to a deceased relative, or because I lost a bet, but no. I counted every single walnut that fell inside the bounds of our fences this year for no other reason than BECAUSE I WANTED TO.

Our town collects vegetative waste every Tuesday, so as I gathered the walnuts, I loaded them into my garbage pails in increments of 500. The number 500 was chosen both as an aid to help me remember, but also because 500 walnuts is nearing the maximum amount of walnuts that can be dragged across a lawn by a 175 white boy.

Of course, after I had counted a few hundred, I was bound to keep counting by the same powerful internal forces that won't let me start reading a new book until I have finished reading the book that I am currently in. It's the same force that made me cry and pout as a 13-year old boy when my parents decided to take the family away from home over Thanksgiving weekend instead of hosting Thanksgiving at our house. It's the force that makes it so that when I start in motion on a task, it takes a significant effort to get me to divert from that path.

Any walnuts that fall in August usually only come loose because of a strong storm. There is a gradual progression in size to the walnuts that fall naturally throughout September and October, from the size of golf balls to the size of racquetballs. From what my eyes can tell, my tree is officially bare for the year, and I have reached my total for the year 2008.
In 2008, I collected a total of 4,773 walnuts which fell from my black walnut tree. Keep in mind that approximately 35% of the tree's branches reach over into the backyards of my neighbors. There were probably at least another 1,500 walnuts that fell outside of our fences.
The sum of the story is that our tree produced a lot of walnuts. The moral of the story is that I am weird and counted each and every walnut. The lesson learned is that I probably could have read a book or two in the time wasted by dragging out my autumn yardwork by counting walnuts one at a time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Misty Assests

From my paychecks between July 1, 2008 and September 30, 2008, I made contributions to my 401(k) Plan totaling $830.76.

During that same time period, my balance suffered a loss of $967.80 (11.5% of my previous account balance).

I am reminded of the warning in the book of James, which reads:

"Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit, yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." - James 4.13-16

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

On Being a Husband to a Pregnant Wife (Installment 2)

When Becca and I first learned that a fertilized egg named Harold had set up shop in Becca's womb, it was all we could do to keep from blurting the news to the whole world immediately. A baby had been the desire of Becca's heart (Psalm 37:4) for many many months, and we were overjoyed to be able to share what the Lord had done for us (Luke 8:39) with anyone who would listen. I set up a hierarchical list of people with whom we wanted to share the news before it became "public knowledge," and we started making phone calls and house calls to friends. I eventually announced our pregnancy at the church picnic, we launched Becca's blog, and the world officially became in the know.

Without fail, everyone's first reaction was one of excitement, smiles, hugs, and kisses. Most everyone goes through the same set of questions: How far along are you? When's it due? Are you going to find out the gender? Are you nauseous? These are all fine and good. It's a blessing to be able to share such joy with those you love, and an equal blessing to be able to see their reaction.

What has been extremely disappointing has been what people often say after they are finished asking the first set of questions. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I have observed that many people feel the need to try to discourage us. I believe that it’s generally unintentional, but it happens often enough to note the trend and to not like it.

Some of the most common examples:

Oh, you’ll hate cloth diapers. We tried them with our first and couldn’t last more than a month. You’ll get sick of it real fast--just wait and see!

Have you started to gain weight yet? Get ready for blimp mode-you’re gonna get so fat!

Oh, have fun trying to breast feed. Your nipples are gonna be sore for months.

Enjoy your last few months of alone time. You won’t be able to leave your house for the next 10 years without a metric ton of baby stuff, and car seats, and diaper bags, and toys, and…and…and…

People also share unsolicited horror stories about labor, or not being able to breast feed, or not losing weight after delivery. People project their own worst-case scenario onto us and our pregnancy and all but assure us that we are doomed to share in all the terrible aspects of their first pregnancy.

I don’t understand what motivates people to share what they do. I don’t understand what causes someone to brush through seeming obligatory responses of I’m excited for you and You’re going to be great parents and skip ahead to the doom and gloom stories that everyone seems to have queued up just for us. Does anyone care to edify and encourage new parents? Even if every negative word were absolutely certain to come to pass, would it be necessary to share it?

When a friend pulls into your driveway with his new car, do you feel obligated to remind him of how much his car has depreciated since he bought it or try to get him to think about when he will have to junk it? No—you open the door, take a deep breath of the new car smell, and probably don’t even think about declining his offer for a ride around the block.

I am not foolish enough to think that Becca and I are fully equipped to be perfect parents at the moment. There are myriad things that I am sure can only be learned on the fly, as we go through our first pregnancy and become parents for the first time. But as we have done throughout our marriage, we are eager to glean wisdom from those who have trod the road on which we find ourselves presently traveling. We love asking questions of trusted friends and family, and generally receive counsel well.

We are not foolish enough to expect a flawless pregnancy, a Nicole Eskow-type labor experience, and a dreamy life as parents of a newborn. We understand that breast feeding doesn’t agree with everyone. We know full well that cloth diapers will be more of a challenge than disposable. We know that a baby will change our life forever. We don’t know everything, but we know enough.

I just wish that more people would respond like Walter Stuber, who heartily shook my hand and beamed as he said You're gonna love being a father! It's wonderful! Better yet was the reaction of his daughter, Deb Stuber, whose reaction reads as follows:

It will be so wonderful to watch him/her grow! The Creator of life is amazing. I can't think of anything that has affected our life more than experiencing childbirth! You will see your Creator in a new light.

How refreshing!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Yankee Stadium Memories

The first game that I saw at Yankee Stadium was a Saturday afternoon game in April 1993. I was not even 11 years old. That Yankees team, about whom I knew almost nothing, lost to the Texas Rangers 9-0, about whom I knew even less. I attended the game with our church youth group--my first time participating in a junior high event--and sat next to Paul Wallace. This is of note because I was only a few years removed from being convinced that Paul was the starting catcher for the New York Yankees (a story for another day).

The game was not a memorable one for the home team. Jim Abbott (the one-handed pitcher) gave up six runs and didn't escape the sixth inning. I remember Margaret Wallace griping that we saw nine runs scored in the game without one of them being the result of a home run. I have vivid memories of the crowd boo-ing Jose Canseco every time he came to bat, without knowing the reason myself. Ignorance, of course, did not stop me from joining the fun and boo-ing a professional athlete for the first time in my young life (It helped that Paul Wallace did it, too). When in the Bronx...

That was by far the least informed and the least passionate state in which I ever occupied a seat at Yankee Stadium. Since taking in that first game as an impartial boy who recognized players' names only because of his collection of baseball cards, I have attended more games than I can count. Each visit has brought with it an increased sense of awe and a greater appreciation for the history that The Stadium possesses.

In his blog, Joel has amply captured a sense of what it has meant for a Pearce boy to have spent a childhood as a Yankee fan living an hour from Yankee Stadium. Many of his great memories at The Stadium are my great memories. I, too, remember the thrill that was Daryl Strawberry's 3-Home Run Game and the letdown that was Roger Clemens losing to the A's in Game 4 of the 2000 ALDS (the only playoff game I ever attended). The greatest individual performance I witnessed at The Stadium was this summer when Kyle Kennedy, Becca, and Kyle's brother, Tyler, watched Johnny Damon go 6-for-6 and deliver the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 9th!

Perhaps my favourite Yankee Stadium moment came this summer when Ben Eskow obtained four tickets to the May 23, 2008 game against the Seattle Mariners. He had told me of the ticket opportunity weeks in advance (a rarity when procuring tickets from Ben) and I had cleared my schedule. Greg Gentry and Mr. Eskow, Sr. were also invited but had to back out just hours before the game. Ben and I were left with two extra tickets and no takers from the usual crew.

After a few phone calls, Ben and I were presented with the opportunity to bring the elder Mr. and Mrs. Cruz to the game. Mr. and Mrs. Cruz are elderly and Mr. Cruz is confined to only brief trips away from the home. To bring them to the game was going to require more than a moderate amount of coordination--but hardly a more dedicated pair of Yankee fans could one ever expect to meet! I can speak to the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Cruz have watched nearly every inning of every Yankee game for the past few years.

Passing time during the drive to the Stadium, I asked Mr. Cruz how many times he had been to Yankee Stadium. When he answered that he had not been "for many years," I was thinking that perhaps he meant four or five years. After all, they have lived in New Jersey for at least that long, and, as I mentioned, he is not a casual fan. To my wonder and excitement, Mr. Cruz told us that the first and only other time that he had been in Yankee Stadium none other than Mickey Mantle played in the game! As you can imagine, this was all the priming that the pump required, as I was instantly starry-eyed and drinking up every detail of the memories of that game that gushed from Mr. Cruz.

The Yankees beat up on the Mariners that night--winning 13-2 and even scoring eight runs in an inning--but the highlight of the night was seeing the reaction of the Cruzes to each pitch, at-bat, or play in the field. They cheered loudest for their favourite players (the Puerto Rican players on the team), and without using hyperbole, I do believe that they couldn't have had a better experience.

But the same could be said about my night. I had been looking forward to seeing the game with Greg and Mr. Eskow--two of my favourite sports fans--hanging out three rows back from the left field foul line, heckling Ichiro, and pretending to know more than each other about what was best for the Yankees to do with Joba. Instead Ben and I spent at least a fair portion of the night looking after the Cruzes, arranging for a wheelchair, and helping Mrs. Cruz to and from her seat--but what an unexpected blessing! It was a thrill to see what a joy it was for them to watch their beloved Yankees in their home park. Whatever inconsequential sacrifices we made by limiting our freedom for a time were more than rewarded by serving our new favourite Yankee fans.

The instant bond formed with the Cruzes that night is one of the greatest intangibles that Yankee Stadium was able to offer to anyone--Yankee fan or otherwise. The history that The Stadium possessed is unequalled by that of any other sports arena in America and is almost worth the price of admission. That a grandfather was able to sit in the stands with his grandson and compare the current Yankees with the players that he had once seen perform on the same outfield grass is something that only few places can offer.

Yankee Stadium was a classic. Not a blockbuster movie that thrilled you some summer weekend and was forgotten the next, but a classic that you shared with generations before and after your own. It was the Wizard of Oz of sports stadiums, the It's a Wonderful Life of ballparks. I am glad to have been able to have passed through its turnstiles so often, and during such great Yankee years as these past have been.

Start spreadin' the news...

Monday, September 15, 2008

On Being a Husband to a Pregnant Wife (Installment 1)

For myriad and obvious reasons, it has been a joy to be a husband to my wife whilst she is in the family way. Like the Grapes of Wrath character Rose of Sharon and her husband, Connie, during their first pregnancy, 'the world had grown close around them, and they were the center of it, or rather Rose of Sharon was in the center of it with Connie making a small orbit about her.' It would be hard to identify even one aspect of our life that has not been touched by Becca's fruited womb.

It has perhaps been most fun to watch Becca's brain occasionally liquefy and ooze out her ears. We are both convinced that it has to be Harold's fault and are having fun with it. Beyond the 'ricocheting emotions' so aptly described by a recent baby update email, the entertainment value of being near Becca when the circuits connecting her tongue and brain has yet to crest. Two-syllable words escape her grasp at any and every moment. Her attempts to explain otherwise inexplicable actions are priceless.

My favourite occurrence of prego brain to date took place last night at 2:00 am:

B - Honey, wake up!
S - What's the matter?
B - Do you smell that??
S - No, what are you talking about?
B - You don't smell it? It smells like garlic bread!
S - You woke me up to tell me it smells like garlic bread? (!)
B - Will you go downstairs to check it out?
S - No. Go back to sleep.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Older Brother Wins Olympic Gold in Beijing

The US men's basketball team, as expected (hoped?), won the gold medal at

the Beijing games last month. Most all red-blooded Americans still fondly recall Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and company destroying international competition at the Olympic Games of 1992, 1996, and 2000. Countries of the world fell helpless victims to the dominant skills of the round ball giants from America like so many peasants before the army of a ruthless and handsome dictator. Members of the US team waged private bets to see who could score 100 points in a game while sweating the least. Opponents were reduced to tears mere seconds after tip-off. America was enjoying our right as first-born of the world: global domination.

But without warning came a few years of complacency and an unexpected upturn in the level of international competition. Horror of horrors!--our men's teams finished 6th in the 2002 FIBA World Championship, took bronze at the 2004 Olympics, and placed third at the 2006 FIBA World Championship. These were disappointing surprises at best and lackluster efforts at worst. Major philosophical changes were implemented during the years of floundering, and it appears that the 'Redeem Team' is the product of a new and improved approach to international tournaments.

The 'Redeem Team' claimed gold in Beijing with relative ease. No rival team had been upset in an earlier round, no opposing star players missed the US game due to injury, no suspect officiating appeared to give the 2008 team any advantage. By all accounts, the United States regained a true claim to basketball dominance. The older brother won again.

The analogy is a perfect one for me. We invented the game. We perfected it. David Stern and stars like Jordan and Kobe are the only reason that some kid in Greece even cares about basketball. No matter how good at shooting blonde white kids from Croatia get, no matter how much genetic engineering the Chinese pull off to produce another Yao Ming (really, how is a seven-foot tall Chinese man not under suspicion?), the United States of America should never lose a basketball game by fewer than 20 points.

The older brother should always beat the younger brother. Always a few years older, a few years stronger, a few years wiser, Older Brother always beats Little Brother. May it be that the lapse between the gold medals of 2000 and 2008 were merely the period when Older Brother went away to college and concentrated on starting a fledgling career and marriage while Younger Brother was enjoying the last few years of his post-pubescent physical prime. Each has now reached the plateau that is Early Career/Fledgling Family, and order shall now be restored. Older Brother, rise and claim what is yours!

Now about those Yankees...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I came across this quiz today. You have to identify the 100 Most Common English Words in five minutes. Check it out. I only scored a 47 out of 100.

100 Most Common English Words

Interesting Note: I took it a second time five minutes later and only scored a 48!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ten Things That Really Bother Me, But Shouldn't

1. Knowing that even if I brush and rinse before I go to bed, I will still wake up with rancid breath.
2. Rascal Flatts songs.
3. People who don't merge one-at-a-time.
4. Fake testicles hanging behind pick-up trucks.
5. Tabloids. And anyone in them.
6. Girls wearing matching Velour sweatsuits out of the house. Same goes for guys and pajama/lounge pants.
7. People wearing Abercrombie t-shirts. Look at me! I overpay for everyday items!
8. People wearing Hollister or Quicksilver t-shirts. No one on the east coast surfs. Aspire to convince people that you are part of something of greater worth than the surf crowd.
9. Drivers using their windshield wipers at a setting far too high than what the rainfall merits.
10. The OBX/LBI/IRE bumper stickers. See my February 2007 blog post.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath was assigned reading in my freshman Honors Lit class in high school, and I remember that it was also the first book that I didn't finish. I made it through about 50 pages and then gleaned just enough from class discussions to fake my way (poorly) through the essay test. I forget what the 'conflict' was at the time--the '96 MLB playoffs is most likely--but I know I didn't give John Steinbeck's work nearly as much effort as it deserves. I subsequently resolved to never again leave a book unread.

To recall that I didn't get more than ten chapters into this classic helps to confirm that my literary discernment and skill as a reader has indisputably improved since 9th grade. I am presently reading my own copy of The Grapes of Wrath (a handsome old hardcover copy gifted from my sister as a birthday present) and I am now ashamed that I was so unmoved by this work as a young man of 14. As an older young man of 26, I can say now with certainty that Grapes is undoubtedly one of the greatest works I have read.

The Grapes of Wrath is the fictional account of three generations of an Oklahoma sharecropping family forced off their land by the bank to whom they have become indebted and lost their farm. They had lost their farm because of a series of extremely poor crops and the Dust Bowl of the 1930's. Sadly, the family distills their life and possessions into a single vehicle, traveling to California on the promise of year-round harvests and high wages. These promises prove empty and they find their prospects in California much the same as they were in Oklahoma. Men are steadily and effectively reduced to begging and stealing in order to keep their children from starving--often a vain struggle. Families dissolve or wither together as vagrants. The story is broad and terrible, yet the narrative is delivered in still, intimate moments and personal exchanges. Steinbeck's writing resonates with me and this story has gripped me like few have.

An excerpt from Chapter Five, an exchange between the bank representative and a tenant farmer:

You'll have to get off the land. The plows'll go through the dooryard.
And now the squatting men stood up angrily. Grampa took up the land, and he had to kill the Indians and drive them away. And Pa was born here, and he killed weeds and snakes. Then a bad year came and he had to borrow a little money. An' we was born here. There in the door--our children born here. And Pa had to borrow money. The bank owned the land then, but we stayed and we got a little bit of what we raised.
We know that--all that. It's not us, it's the bank. A bank isn't like a man. It's a monster.
Sure, cried the tenant men, but it's our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if it's no good, it's still ours. That's what makes it ours--being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it.
We're sorry. It's not us. It's the monster. The bank isn't like a man.
Yes, but the bank is only made of men.
No, you're wrong there--quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it.

The tragic nature of the story is what I find most moving, and perhaps because I find it somewhat relevant to my own feelings as a young man of 26 in a changing world. Recent months have marked the first times that I have felt genuine concern about our national/local economy, of which I am a part. In a much less tragic, although not any less real sense, I feel as if I can relate to the men of the Joad family more at this point in my life than I have in any preceding. I see the price of gas rising and I hear only foreboding forecasts--no real solutions. I find our finances tighter than they have ever been, and my only comfort is that I know that everyone around us is in the same situation. The themes of my struggles, albeit of far lesser sacrifice and tragedy, are not unsimilar to those of the heads of the Joad family--feelings of fighting a nameless, faceless entity; the necessity of resolve and hope in seemingly hopeless circumstances.

The migrant farmers occasionally burst in anger at not knowing against whom they are fighting. My reactions to the news reports and talk radio monologues are not very different. The magnitude of the struggle of an individual against a tide of injustice or hopelessness cannot be underestimated. I am reminded Russell Crowe's character in Cinderella Man (also set during the Great Depression) choosing to continue to box because "At least [in the ring] I know who's hitting me." Sometimes I wish I had such an outlet.

O God, our Help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our Guard while troubles last
And our eternal Home!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

There's Treasure Everywhere

As was true last year, my hands have not been sitting idly by during these spring months still too wet to continue paint the house exterior. Putting a birthday present to good use, I spent the early part of May 2007 demolishing the concrete walkway/steps leading to our front door and then spent Memorial Day weekend (and beyond) installing a new walkway of field stone with my brother Joel.

This year's May project was transforming a 4-feet by 16-feet grass area just outside the back door into a vegetable garden. I started in late April, and now, a Saturday morning and a half dozen evenings later, the garden is ready.

Converting a grass plot into a garden plot is one of my least favorite landscaping tasks, mostly because it involves removing sod. This element was particularly frustrating because the sod to be removed happens to be the healthiest portion of grass in the backyard.

As such, the grass root mat was especially thick and cutting out the sod was increasingly difficult. I worked as efficiently and methodically as I knew how, cutting out squares measuring two-feet by two feet and then digging them up with my spade. Not wanting to waste the topsoil that was clinging to the grass roots necessitated shaking out each sod square until the topsoil had been rightly redeemed. Shaking out topsoil from sod is perhaps my second least favorite landscaping task, but it did yield some surprising results.

I had hardly made a dent into the formidable mound of sod squares and was shaking the topsoil from only the second or third of many squares when I first encountered what I consider buried treasure (my wife thinks otherwise). Upon discarding the spent sod square and searching through the topsoil below, I found the remains of a wild Indian chief, complete with head dress and rifle!

Not a real Indian chief, of course, but a yellow plastic figurine in the style of the inch-tall "Army Men" toys that little boys play with. This particular figurine had a full head dress and was aiming a rifle. And it was hardly another sod square until I discovered at whom Indian chief was aiming--a young cowboy with a cocked pistol, ready to fire! I had found some boy's lost toys!

What a miracle had just met me in the mundane task of shaking sod squares! How my pity party was crashed with the discovery of treasure in my topsoil! Imagination took hold and soon flooded my mind with thoughts of the additional treasure that may have awaited me--Indian arrow heads, old coins, jewelry--the possibilities were endless. Following my initial discovery, my senses were piqued with each stroke of my spade, listening for--expecting to hear-- the sound of metal against hollow wooden chest. For the remainder of the day I was far from my backyard and was instead trying to outwit a hoarde of pirates on Treasure Island.
Alas, my excavations were not deep enough to encounter any buried treasure of real monetary value. I finished clearing the garden plot, screened stones from the salvaged topsoil, and put a border of stained four-by-four's around. I'm pleased with how it turned out and am looking forward to literally reaping the fruits of my labors.

In all I unearthed two Indians, seven whole cowboys, one half cowboy, one half army man, one helicopter sans blades, one rusty hinge, one rusty bracket, two rusty Exact-O knife handles, two marbles, one Bic pen, a plastic quarter dated 1984, and a lucky medallion from the Philadelphia Zoo. Not a bad haul for a boy like Tom Sawyer. Not really too valuable for a boy like Scott Pearce.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Becca and I spent $796.06 on gasoline in the month of March 2008.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Sheet of Integrity"

Listeners to the Mike and Mike morning show on ESPN radio will recognize the title phrase. "Sheet of Integrity" refers to, as I have recently become convicted, what a sports fan is obligated to stick with when participating in multiple NCAA tournament pools. 2008 is the first year that I have limited myself to one "Sheet of Integrity."

Every year I hear the same self-justification from fellow pool junkies: "I have Teams A, B, C, and D in the Final Four for my office bracket, but I entered Teams B, C, F, and J in my Cousin Vinnie's pool." I admit that I have been guilty of succumbing to the temptation to post different brackets in different pools. Mike Golic's reasoning was enough to convict and convert me. I am hereafter a one-bracket per year guy.

- Adds to the tension with each game. One bracket makes each pick more of a do-or-die scenario.
- Legitimizes boasting about correct upset picks. If you had all your money on Team X making the Final Four when no one else did, you have sole bragging rights. If you picked against Team X on your other three brackets, you lose all credibility.

- If you have a crucial team fall early, you lose all your money in all your pools early.
- Not only do you lose money, but you likely lose much interest.

Win or lose, Opening Day is just a few weeks away!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Grandpa Cuomo

A man whom I considered to be my adopted grandfather, Donald Cuomo, was diagnosed with terminal cancer throughout his body a few months ago. His seemingly imminent passing has weighed heavy on many hearts in the Cuomo family and in my own, especially in the past weeks. Don and his wife, Barbara, had "adopted" my parents as their own children when my father served as an intern at the OPC church in Harmony, NJ 27 years ago. They treated my siblings and I as if we were Cuomos. You may remember that Don Cuomo gave the prayer of blessing at my wedding.

With his decreasing state of health in mind, I had, in fact, written a type of tribute letter to him which went out in today's mail. Not even an hour after the mailman came and left, my father called me with the news that Grandpa Cuomo has passed into glory. He will never read the letter, but you may find it posted below.

I post it as a tribute to a great man in my life, and a great leader and example in the church of Jesus Christ. I post it as a praise to my heavenly Father who has granted me the gift of love from this man for the years on earth in which our lives overlapped.

- Grandpa Cuomo,

It would be difficult for me to overestimate what your life has meant to my own. The Lord has used your love, your wisdom, and your example to bless me and my family in ways to numerous to count or quantify.

You have been faithful as a godly husband, father, grandfather, and elder before my eyes and the eyes of so many others. What great assurance I have when considering the future generations of my family when I can so clearly see how the Lord has been faithful to the generations of the Cuomo family after you.

What immeasurable joy and happiness I can expect to find in the future years of my own marriage when I see the depth of love and unity you share with the wife of your youth.

What confidence I have in considering the future of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ when I reflect on the wisdom, conviction, and the love of the Word with which He equipped you to serve Him. Your years of faithful leadership and service are an inspiration and a comfort to me as I consider how the Lord would have me to help build His church.

The memories and thoughts of you that I am blessed to possess are treasured in the most dear halls of my heart. I not only thank the Lord for allowing me to be loved and polished by a man such as you, but I thank you for the ways in which you, in both word and deed, have helped me to more greatly love and trust our Heavenly Father.

You are one of the greatest blessings of my life. I love you, and will see you soon.

- Scott

Friday, January 25, 2008

2007 - Books in Review

There are several reasons why my list of books read in 2007 is drastically lesser than my list of books read in 2006. The introduction of Netflix to the Scott Pearce home has radically reduced the amount of reading in which I partake with any regularity. Another reason is that I will not allow myself to start reading a new book until I have completed the one with which I am presently occupied. You will notice that Moby Dick was tops on the list to start the year, and I was not able to surmount the tale of the white whale until September. This left me just enough time to plow through a surprisingly difficult encounter with God of Promise before the end of the year.

Moby Dick - Herman Melville - It started altogether promising. Immediately following the famous "Call me Ishmael" opening address began a handful of chapters which caused me to respond it such a way as to question whether I had, in fact, forsaken the true calling of my soul to be a man of the sea. A taste: Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. Great stuff.

Between the opening line and page 126 lie a wonderful sermon on the story of Jonah, a few ambiguous prophecies from a character named Elijah, and an entire chapter on the merits of chowder. Between shove off and the first sightings of the white whale on page 689 (!), Melville interrupts an appropriately deliberate narrative with a generous (read: excessive) number of chapters detailing the whaling profession, the glory of the whale, and a biological exposition of the body of the whale--body part by body part. A sampling of the chapter titles comprising the bulk of the book: The Tail, The Honor and Glory of Whaling, Jonah Historically Regarded, and Does the Whale's Magnitude Diminish? I couldn't make this stuff up.

The last five chapters were riveting. It was one of only a few times when I have ever found myself incapable of putting a book down. The close to the story was good enough to make me forget and disregard the nine months of my life that I had spent reaching the close to the story. Moby Dick is perhaps the only exception I would make in passing judgment on someone for reading an abridged version of a classic novel. I could, upon request, cut the 135 chapters of Moby Dick down to 35 essentials and you would not miss a thing.

God of Promise, Introducing Covenant Theology - Michael Horton - I knew nothing about Michael Horton before our church's Men's Reading Group suggested God of Promise for our January meeting. Somehow, I felt as if I knew almost as little about covenant theology. Sure, I was familiar with regular references to the "old covenant" and the "new covenant" and the "Abrahamic covenant" and the "Mosaic covenant," but the distinctions and characterizations of each were anything but crystallized in my mind.

All in our reading group agreed that Horton did an excellent job arguing the significance of understanding covenant theology, of expounding the topic, and of explaining the application and implications of the topic. There were a few chapters where Horton led his readers to greater depths and/or loftier heights of thinking than I was able to follow. However, I found his work most helpful and would recommend it to all. A few selections can be found below:

We were not just created and then given a covenant; we were created as covenant creatures--partners not in deity, to be sure, but in the drama that was about to unfold in history.

Reformed theology is synonymous with covenant theology.

It is hardly anti-Semitic to observe that the covenant with Israel as a national entity in league with God was conditional and that the nation had so thoroughly violated that covenant that its theocratic status was revoked. Dispensationalism and the so-called two-covenant theory currently popular in mainline theology both treat the land promise as eternal and irrevocable, even to the extent that there can be significant difference between Israel and the church in God's plan. Both interpretations, however, fail to recognize that the Hebrew Scriptures themselves qualify this national covenant in strictly conditional terms.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Your Resolutions for the New Year

Not being one to take special interest in resolutions of the New Year's variety, I have been a bit of a wet blanket this January as I have been asked about my list of New Year's Resolutions. I have countered this awkward social situation by creating a list of resolutions that I would like to see you follow this year.

Don't kid yourself. It is obvious to us all that your life has not quite reached the Fulfilled plateau. Below find several resolutions to which your adherence is a must in 2008:

(in no order of importance)

1. If you claim to be a Patriots fan, generate a list of at least five reasons why. All reasons must not include any reference to winning.

2. Do not allow the balance on your credit card to carry over to the next month.

3. If you have more than one credit card, cancel all but one.

4. Walk more, especially in the company of loved ones.

5. Vote.

6. Buy, listen to, and love "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen. If you have been a New Jersey resident for more than any ten years of you life, make this Resolution #1.

7. Buy a pickup truck, or at least imagine how much better your life would be with a pickup truck.

8. Tip your garbage man and mailman more than you tip your bartender.

9. Realize and embrace the fact that the current purse craze is stupid. Use a twelve-step program, if necessary. Convince yourself and your friends that a purse with a letter on the outside is no more special than one without. Remind yourself that wanting something just because every one of your friends has one is not a good reason to do anything.

10. Eat more legumes.

11. Write your mother a card on a day other than Mother's Day, her birthday, or Valentine's Day. Make it a Blank Inside card, and write your own sincere message.

12. Make Brian Regan a part of your life.

13. Meditate on the Lord's unmerited favor to you in 2007. Expect more of it in 2008.