Saturday, November 28, 2020

Give Thanks Wrap-Up

Welp, this week didn't go as planned. Some of you may have noticed that I had planned to write a "Give Thanks" post daily through Thanksgiving, but I suddenly dropped off. I can explain, but first let me just share my final gratitude: my wife. And to illustrate why and explain my sudden drop-off, let me tell the story of my week.

Last Wednesday, I started running a fever and on Thursday I noticed some swelling in my neck and a lump at the base of my skull, so I made a doctor's appointment for Friday. He ordered some bloodwork and a CT scan. He thought he had it narrowed down to two possibilities: an abscessed infection in my neck or lymphoma. That was a sobering thought, but we tried not to worry until we got the CT scan on Monday. We didn't make it that far.

Saturday brought new symptoms and new problems. On Saturday my throat started hurting and then I spent the night throwing up. Sunday morning, we realized the dire nature of the situation. My fever was reaching over 105 degrees and I couldn't keep any fluids down. We went straight to the ER when we woke up. With all of the COVID precautions, my wife wasn't allowed into the building. She dropped me off and went home. At the ER, the doctors re-did the same blood tests and ran the CT scan. And that's when I went into septic shock. My blood pressure crashed, dipping as low as 69/37. I was wheeled straight up to the ICU, where I spent the next two days.

Even after I was released from ICU, my wife still wasn't allowed to visit because they hadn't received the results of my COVID test. Without a negative test, nobody was allowed in the room but the nurse. So I waited over 48 hours, in the ER, in ICU, on the Med/Surg Floor, alone until I was cleared.

And this is where I express my gratitude to my wife, in one simple scene. After I finally received a negative result, my wife was able to visit. The moment she walked in the room, I didn't even get any words out before I broke down into uncontrollable sobs. For minutes, I cried. I cried because she was the most beautiful sight in the world to me. I cried because the weight of loneliness that I had been fighting with the infection came crashing down. I cried because the woman I decided long ago to share my life with, who had been torn away from me when I needed her most, was suddenly back. I cried because she meant everything to me and I knew I couldn't take her for granted. Why am I grateful for my wife? It's not what she does, or says, or anything. It's that she is, and that she shares what she is with me and lets me share with her.

This will wrap up my Give Thanks posts. Though I haven't commented much this week, I've read a few blogs here and there and I loved hearing the gratitude many of you shared. The next step in this holiday season is to remember our blessings and now try to spread the joy around for the Christmas season!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Give Thanks Day 3

 I can't let this Sunday pass without expressing thanks for a loving Father in Heaven. Of all the things He's done for me that I'm grateful for, the biggest has to be that He sent His Son to complete the Atonement for me and the rest of the world. It is through the Savior that I will overcome physical death and have opportunity to overcome spiritual death and find myself back in the presence of God. No work of my own could make it possible, and I'm grateful for my Savior.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only egotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. --John 3:16-17

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Give Thanks Day 2

 This will be another post without cards. Just gratitude today.

I took this picture the other day. My gratitude swells here at the sight of my three kids in this picture raking our 87-year-old widow neighbor's yard. What makes me grateful here is the willingness they had to go perform an act of service. I asked the two older boys to put down the Nintendo Switch and go rake her yard. They did it immediately, and my 4-year-old girl begged to go help, too. I'm not bragging about my parenting here; they came out naturally good. If I had asked them to stop the video games to do a chore for me, they would have fought me. It's not that I've trained them well. I'm grateful that these kids are so inclined to help others. I don't know why I got them, but I'm so grateful I did.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Give Thanks Challenge

I want to issue a challenge to all card enthusiasts on the blogs. Starting today, for the next seven days-- including Thanksgiving--write a small afterword at the end of any of your blog posts that briefly describes one thing for which you are thankful and a little explanation as to why you are thankful for it. 

Happiness researcher (yes, it's a real job) Shawn Achor has found in his studies that success does not make people happy. Instead, he says that when we expect success to make us happy, we "have pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon" because there is always something more to achieve. He has found the inverse to be true: successful people aren't more happy; happy people are more successful. One thing he recommends to find happiness before success to fuel our future success is to make a gratitude journal and write in it every day for 21 days. When we do this, we are rewiring our brains to look for the positive. When we are looking more for the positive, we see a lot more positive. When we see more positive, we feel that things are going better for us and it makes us happier.

Over the course of this challenge, I'm going to attempt to write a post every day, with or without cards, just to express my gratitude and watch the effort ease the troubles in my mind. I hope many of you will join me, unless for some reason 2020 has removed all troubles from your mind anyway. The order of my gratitudes is by no means a priority list or a countdown. It will just be what is on my mind that day.

Today I wish to express gratitude to the teachers and counselors that I got to work with as I was going through school. This comes to mind today because we had counselors come into my class today to discuss a four-year plan for school as these eighth graders prepare to enter high school next year. I was reminded of a counselor I had in 8th grade who once asked me which college I wanted to attend. I said I didn't know. He responded, "I'll tell you where you're going to college: anywhere that offers you a scholarship." He then went on to explain that I had what it would take to get an academic scholarship if I worked at it through high school. From that day on, that was my high school goal: have the resume necessary to get a scholarship. It worked. I applied to three schools and two of them offered me full tuition scholarships, setting me on a great course for my adult life. Of course, this counselor wasn't alone. There are many teachers who helped me get where I am, and I'm thankful for them all.

Your turn. Write a standalone post about gratitude. Or just add gratitude at the end of any post you are already publishing. But let's show our gratitude for the great things that still exist in the world!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

State of the Set: 2008 Upper Deck X Xponential

I feel that there are too many sets on my wantlist that have been sitting there for years while I slowly chip away at them. This year I noticed that a lot of those sets are well within striking distance this year, so I've tried to swing some trades for set needs while focusing my recent Sportlots purchase on sets as well. We'll see how many sets I can kill before the year is out.

For the past few years, I have written a post that summarizes my set completion quests for the year. I still plan to do that for 2020, but I also decided to give a progress report for sets that I'm actively acquiring cards for along the way. I thought this might be more interesting than writing one giant post that tries to tie all the different cards from a trade or a purchase together.

I wanted to write about football, since it is football season right now. But my fantasy team wasn't kind to me this weekend, even if the Packers did win, so I'm not a football mood at the moment. So let's take a look at a baseball insert that I've been working on for a while now: 2008 Upper Deck X Xponential.

Why I'm collecting this set: When I first got back into collecting, I found a discounted box (maybe 2?) of Upper Deck X. I had never seen the product before, but I remember cracking the box open and seeing the holographic wrappers. I immediately got an idea in my mind of what this set would look like. And let's just say that the base set then turned out to be disappointing. But there was one actual holographic card in each pack: the Xponential series. These were the types of cards that I expected, and I thought they were great.

How long has it been on my wantlist (roughly)?: I didn't put them on my wantlist immediately, mostly because I didn't have interest in building sets then. It would be a few years before I that endeavor attracted me. I would say I decided to put together this set 2-3 years ago. It's a rather large insert set (90 cards), so it has been a bit of a long build.

Current state of set completion: The cards above, from a Sportslot order, finished the Xponential set. It is done. So there's some bonus material in
this post: I'm also collecting the the slightly harder to find Xponential2 set.

Whereas I like Xponential, X2 is an even better looking card. Xponential has a little too much red, but the black on these cards helps the holographic foil stand out more. I have 90/90 of the original Xponential cards, but my completion for the X2 is 60/75 (80%).

Current needs: The 15 cards I need or Xponential2. X2-CP (Carlos Pena), X2-DJ, X2-EB (Erik Bedard), X2-GM (Greg Maddux), X2-GS (Grady Sizemore, X2-HM (Hideki Matsui), X2-JR (Jimmy Rollins), X2-MC (Miguel Cabrera), X2-MO (Magglio Ordonez), X2-MR (Mariano Rivera), X2-PE (Jake Peavy), X2-RA (Rick Ankiel), X2-RH (Ryan Howard), X2-RO (Alex Rodriguez), X2-TT (Troy Tulowitzki)


Prognosis: Obviously, one set here is done. With 15 cards to go and a little more than a month before year's end, I don't think I'll get to finish X2 in 2020. It will probably be a trading/Sportslot priority for next year, though, and I hope to find the final 20% by next December 31.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Contributors to a Gallery

 I went out looking for Update. This may be shocking to some of you, but I couldn't find it at my local Wal-Mart. I did, however, find some Gallery. Just not this year's. The only option I had for sports cards was a handful of 2019 Topps Gallery fat packs. Since I didn't buy any Gallery last year and I was in the mood to bust a couple of packs, I picked up a few packs.

These are the keepers for my collection. My favorite card here is the Nicholas Castellano Cubs card. The wood parallel and the Heritage inserts are both represented here, both Alex Bregman. I know that a lot of people don't care for Gallery, but I usually like it. One thing I've noticed is the quality of artwork varies, though. Going through these packs, I started to pick up on the artists' styles.

So I decided to present my pulls, grouped together by artist.

These are all by an artist named Kevin Graham. I feel like his portraits were most lifelike. Steven Duggar, in particular, almost looks like a photograph.

This artist is Todd Aaron Smith.

These cards were done by Josh Trout. He seems to prefer portraying in-game action. The Kershaw is a gorgeous card, in my opinion.

These four cards are by an artist named Dan Bergren.

Here is some work by John Giancaspro, who contributed to the Master & Apprentice insert set. Yount and Yelich, by the way? I must have missed something, but I don't think there was ever an apprenticeship relationship between these two. Yelich didn't even come up with the Brewers.

This group of portraits was done by Carlos Cabaleiro. This is probably my least favorite of the artists. A couple of these faces, like Goldschmidt and Andujar, just look off to me. And you can't really see it here, but it looks like Christin Stewart has a giant, white zit right between his eyes. Not my favorite group.

The final artist who contributed to my Gallery purchase was Louise Draper. She also did the Bregman Heritage insert. As far as I can tell, Ms. Draper didn't do any of the base cards, but she got the entire Heritage insert set.

I'm sure this post would have been more interesting if I were an art connoisseur, or even competently versed in some form of art criticism. Instead, I can only tell you that I think my favorite artist was Josh Trout, while I didn't care for Carlos Cabaleiro. Truly, I would rather hear your opinions. Which artist do you prefer, based on the sampling I have provided here? Is there any you don't like as much? Let me know in the comments.