Christmas Abroad

Merry Christmas to everyone from me!

Nativity

I was tempted to call the this post Merry Miss-mas, since it is the first Christmas that I have ever spent away from home and I miss my family and friends back home very much. However, I would have clearly been taking the commercialized and consumeristic route of the Holiday by taking the “Christ” out of Christmas.

When I step back and think about it, keeping Christ in Christmas actually makes spending Christmas away from home an easier proposition. It helps remind you of what the focal point of the Holiday actually is: Christ’s Birthday. As much as I love spending time with my family, especially over Christmas, the focus of the celebrations should always be on God’s gift of His Son, in the person of Jesus. I realized that in praising the Infant-Lord at His birth and by openly receiving the Grace’s that He pours upon us on His birthday, I am in closer unity with my friends and family at home than I ever could be in their physical presence.

Now, missing my birthday (on the 24th) at home is another matter altogether! 😉 Think of all the fawning and pampering I missed; breakfast in bed, meals, foot massages, and fresh cookies on demand.

Here is proof of the Christmas Chaos that I missed back home this year!

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In reality, however, I was treated to a wonderful birthday and Christmas double over here in England…or as my little cousin said, I had a very Mappy Birthmas! The relatives I am living with, the Inglehearn’s, not only allowed me to stick around through the holidays, but have treated me beyond generously in the process. Not only did I get a special Birthday Cake and some wonderfully tasty meals, but I was also showered with many a Manchester United gift – despite their less than impartial feelings toward the Red Devils. Their generosity towards me over Christmas, and since I have been here, is a great example of what the season of Christmas is really about.

I'm Dreaming of a Red Christmas

I’m Dreaming of a Red Christmas

Just because Jesus’ birthday is the reason for the season, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to celebrate it in the same way. So, here are just a few things I’ve learned about Christmas in England – as opposed to back home in VA.

  • Void of a Thanksgiving, some of the Brits seem to save their big turkey dinner of the year for Christmas. No complaints here!
  • Mulled Wine – a spiced up and warmed version of red wine.
  • Mince pies are everywhere – they are essentially little pies with raisins and some other things in them.
  • Christmas crackers – those tube-like things that you pull apart at the Christmas table and they go “Pop” and there is a paper crown and a little gift inside – never used them until this year.
  • Rain – oh wait that’s not just Christmas.
  • Boxing Day – see below!
Christmas Cracker

The Christmas Cracker!

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine, also known as Wulled Mine after the 6th

Mince Pies

Mince Pies, hold the mince meat

MY FIRST BOXING DAY!

Boxing day in the U.K. is the day after Christmas (the 26th) and contrary to what you might think – i did – it has nothing to do with Boxing. Seeing as that was clearly not the case, I asked what Boxing Day was all about. The general consensus was that it had to do with the poor and giving them “boxes” of things they need…like food, I imagine. So, essentially, they are celebrating St. Stephen’s feastday, which is also the 26th, by doing something that Good King Wenceslas was known for doing…on the feast of Stephen (ring a bell?) – essentially, giving to the poor. Why they don’t just call it St. Stephan’s day I do not know.

Seriously, I could see this catching on!

Seriously, I could see this catching on!

For the football enthusiast, Boxing day is glorious. Nearly every semi-pro/pro team plays on Boxing day and most people are off of work, so the grounds are well attended on the day. On top of that, everyone is starting to get a little bit of cabin fever from the holidays and is more than willing to get out of the house for a few hours.

There was a possibility that I would be making my Guiseley debut and my Boxing Day debut on the same day, but that was not to be the case. We played local rivals Bradford Park Avenue on a very wet afternoon. I was disappointed not to dress for the game, but not surprised as I didn’t imagine playing my first game in an important local derby. Especially since the manager has never seen me in a proper game. My time will come if I keep my head down and continue to work hard.

We ended up winning the game 1-0 from a first half strike. It was not a pretty game and the visitors had much of the ball and the better chances. Their failure to capitalize on chances and our strong defensive performance, particularly from our keeper who earned man-of-the-match honors, saw us leaving with all three points in the bag. As the saying goes, good teams find a way to win even when they are not playing well.

Next game is home again on Saturday 3:00 (10 in VA) at Nethermoor Park vs. Colwyn Bay, a team traveling from Wales. New Years Day will see us make the short trip across Bradford to play Bradford Park Avenue again at their home ground Horsfall Stadium. That is all dependent on the weather of course, which hasn’t been particularly kind to us the last few weeks, months, decades, centuries, millenniums – at least that’s what I hear.

I hope to be making my first appearance soon and will be sure to tell you all about it when it happens. Who knows, maybe I will score with my head first?

Merry Christmas to you all and have a Happy New Year!

Joy and Peace this Holiday season,

Seano

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I’m Not Crying Wolf

I can’t believe it’s been nearly 3 weeks since my last post. I joked in a previous post that this blog and I were in a relationship, and if that were the case, I couldn’t argue if it tried to break up with me right here and now. Luckily, however, I think I have enough good things to tell my blog that it might just forgive me.

I also just want to note that I have tried to put together a few posts recently, but they didn’t really flow for me, so they are still in draft form and may show their faces eventually. So far, most of my stories have really come to me out of the blue and the inspiration comes in a moment. When I write at times like that, I am always happier with the outcome. For instance, my last story, on the Missing Ball, came to me the day I had lost the last ball and I went and wrote it that night. The idea to add the story within that post about Mo-vember, came after I started writing. I guess what I am saying is that I don’t want to write, just to write. I need an inspiration.

For the record, I'm not advocating anything going on in this image...

For the record, I’m not advocating anything going on in this image…

Ok, I don’t have an inspiration here, so who knows how this post is going to turn out?

Believe it or not, it may actually be a good thing that I haven’t been writing on my blog! Why? Because it means that I have less time on my hands. Why do I have less time on my hands? Because I have been doing more. If I’ve been doing more, why haven’t I been telling you about it? I don’t know. What have I been doing? Well, I will briefly tell you some of it here and will elaborate on it all in future posts.

To be honest, part of the reason I haven’t told you about my recent happenings is because I didn’t want to get you too excited about things that I couldn’t confirm or that I would have to go back on – come on, you can at least pretend that you get excited by my posts. It would be like calling you to dinner, while it was still cooking, or asking you to marry me…maybe. Essentially, I don’t like causing unrealistic hope. It’s like the boy who cried “Candy”.

Crying Wolf

So, he doesn’t cry “Candy”, but you get the point…don’t be that guy

On that note, I have to tell you a story about a coach who did this to a player. We were having a practice the day before a game and overall it was shambolic. Our coach was not happy. He proceeded to chew us all out, except for one player who seemed to have magic boots on that day and was doing whatever he wanted with the ball. The coach said/shouted something along the lines of “No one has played today like they deserve a spot on the field tomorrow, no one except Bruno (made up name)! The only player who I know will be playing tomorrow is Bruno!” “Bruno” was a fringe player at the time and would get into the odd game, but wasn’t a starter. So needless to say, he was happy to hear he would be getting significant minutes the next day. FALSE…he didn’t play a minute! Absolutely shattered. As a matter of fact, the entire team was shattered along with him.

Unlike other reputable news services, I like to have valid and complete information to back my claims.

I’ve done my research on this and I can confirm that I am fantastic. Thank you and Goodnight.

Back to reality! I do have some news for you mainly in two parts.

The main bit of news is that I have signed with Guiseley AFC who are a semi-professional team in the 6th division, which is called the Blue Square Conference North. I wasn’t going to tell you until I actually played, but they announced it on their website and on their twitter account, and….wait for it…on FACEBOOK!

Here is the brief article that confirms that I Sean O’Reilly, signed with Guiseley. Thankfully for everyone there is no picture of me in the article. The said article has made its way around enough that I figured it was pretty well confirmed.

I have been training with them for the better part of a month and it may have been official sooner had some paperwork issues gone smoothly through the system…which we all know never really happens. I have done well in training and have been enjoying it considerably, but it is only another step in the right direction. The manager has not had the chance to see me play in a full game and thus I still have plenty to prove and far more work to do. I will be sure to let you know when I make my debut!

Guiseley are currently sitting in 2nd place in the 6th division and are considered one of the favorites for promotion into the 5th division. Last year, they lost out on promotion in a final playoff and are very focused on righting that failure. I hope to play a significant part in helping them achieve it. The other added bonus is that they are the closest team to me, which is a big positive!

In other news, I have recently got a part-time job at a local school where I will primarily be helping out with the PE department. It is a Catholic Jr. High/High School called St. Mary’s and is only a few miles down the road. Two of the cousins I am living with, Jenny and Will, attend the school and that is how I got connected with it. Yes, it is another of the many things I am thankful to them for.

PE Teacher

I initially just asked if I could do some volunteer work with any of the football/sports to give myself more things to do and also improve my coaching. After a few meetings, with the relevant and important people in charge, they offered me work as a Teacher’s Assistant. So, come next term, I will be working a few days a week as a St. Mary’s employee. I will be doing most of my work in the PE department, but will also help out as needed in other classroom situations.

It is going to be a challenging and exciting experience for me and I expect to learn a significant amount. I also hope I can do my part in helping the kids who I will be working with improve not only as athletes and students, but as good people with good Catholic values.

Overall, I am very blessed to have both of these opportunities in front of me. Unfortunately, though, it means I did not make it home for Christmas and will miss all my crazy family and friends back home very much. However, I am lucky to have loving relatives here as well, with whom I can celebrate the joy of Christmas.

Do just go, go head first!

Peace,

Seano

The Missing Ball

Before anyone asks it, or even thinks it, this has nothing to do with the recent Mo-vember movement or any form of male cancer. Not that it isn’t a good cause, its a great cause – even if I can’t participate, well wait, does whisker count? Whisker-vember just doesn’t go well, so I humbly cheer on other mustaches from the sideline.

Hmm, this post is slowly becoming about Mo-vember even though I said it wasn’t.

Story time!

When I was back at St. Francis University, I think it was my Junior year, most of the guys on the soccer team decided to do the whole No-Shave-November thing. Come to think of it, I think we were rebelling and decided to do No-Shave-till-November, so it was actually October.

I went along with it. It was a sad effort on all our parts and I think overall only 2-3 people made it the whole month. It definitely wasn’t as big of a deal that year as it has become now. As a matter of fact, it was the first time I had heard of it. This year it was wild, I felt like everyone had some kind of facial growth going. I know in the football world it was all over the place: players, coaches, pundits alike were all slowly turning into cave men. Loved It!

Georgie Best! Sports a handsome beard back in his day.

Georgie Best! Sports a handsome beard back in his day.

You almost miss the stache, with the classic Valderrama hair!

You almost miss the stache, with the classic Valderrama hair!

As it turned out, I was one of those two or three people on my team who didn’t shave for a month. As it also turned out, no one knew.

A night or two after the month was over, I walked over to the sink in my room and casually mentioned “I guess I can shave now”. My roommate, Benny, who could grow a carpet on his face in just a few days, sat straight up and said something along the lines of “WHAAAAA? BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!”, “You haven’t…HAHAHA”, “Sean…BAHAHAHHA”, “You haven’t shaved? HAHAHAHA!!!!”, “FOR A MONTH! BAHAHAHA”. Before I could answer he had run down the hall and told everyone. My No-Shave-Till-November campaign had, in truth, become a disgraceful Mo-ck-tober campaign.

Alexi Lalas, famous for his goatie in his playing days, sporting a very full stache

Alexi Lalas, famous for his goatie in his playing days, sporting a very full stache

That one will surely live through many a team reunion.

Back to the main point of post: the missing ball. Today I went to the local park, as I often do, to get some work in. One of the more recent challenges I have made for myself, when I am training alone, involves working on my longer, aerial passes. For this, I use a wall (about 6-6.5 ft high). I will typically back up 30-40 yards and try to hit the wall while the ball is still in the air. If I hit the ball too hard, it goes over the wall and I have to jump over and go get it. If I hit it too soft and it bounces before it hits the wall, it doesn’t come back all the way and I have run and get it. When I hit it right, the ball will typically role all the way back to me easy-peasy!

This is a great way to practice something. There are direct negative consequences for mistakes and if you do it right it is easier for you, but its not easy to do it right – sounds kinda like life doesn’t it.

Today, in my infinite imperfection, I kicked the ball over not 1, but 4 times (most of the others didn’t make it to the wall in the air either). Let me add that there is a relatively busy road just behind the wall, only protected by a few rows of trees (many of which are very thorny trees).

The first time I kicked it over was easy, as it sat just on the other side of the wall. The second and third time I happened to be practicing striking 1-time volleys out of the air, which is a classic high-risk vs. high-reward situation. If you manage to score a one touch volley, you feel like the man, you look like the man, and people will treat you like the man (at least for a bit)! If you shank it, you feel stupid, you look stupid and people treat you like your stupid (for a while). So, when I shanked these two over the wall they also cleared the trees. So, I had to push my way through the thorny trees and out on to the busy road, looking and feeling stupid, to retrieve my ball.

The last time I kicked it over, it only just cleared the wall, hit some branches right behind the wall, and appeared to drop straight down. I ran over immediately to scale the wall AGAIN. I got to the top of the wall and looked over…the ball was nowhere to be seen. I jumped down into the thorny trees and began crawl-walking around looking for it. Nothing. I went out to the road. Nothing. I crossed the busy road looking stupid to see if it had somehow gotten across (highly unlikely considered the pace I kicked it at). Nothing. The road was gradually sloping downhill and the ball could have gotten caught in the culvert and started rolling away so I walked down a little ways…looking stupid. Nothing. I went back and looking up into the trees in case it was stuck in them somewhere. Nothing!

Note: this was a bright neon yellow ball – on my receipt it is classified “Hi-Vis.”!

Seriously, how do you miss this!!!!!

Seriously, how do you miss this!!!!!

NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING!!!!!!!!

I sat there scratching my head for a bit and came to the only rational conclusion I could. It grew legs and ran off.

Now, if you remember, I wrote about losing another ball a while back at the same place. It’s bizarre. However, this isn’t just my second ball since I’ve been here. It’s my fourth (4TH). Two have mysteriously disappeared and two have been victims of death by puncture from the above described thorny trees. Moral of the story…don’t kick a ball over the wall into the thorny trees. Sigh! The Sports Direct store in Leeds is loving it.

In other news, my soccer life has continued to improve, while my love life has continued nowhere. I continue to train, here and there, with about as many teams as balls I’ve lost. Funnily enough, I have gotten to play a little in a few games with Albion Sports yet again. They have been doing well and sit 2nd in their league. In any case, they needed players for a few games again this week and I was happy to oblige.

We lost one of the games and won the other. I only played briefly in both and I was essentially given permission to run around as much as I wanted as long as I made sure they didn’t score. They didn’t! This leads to today’s seanostat: My team has never been scored on while I’m on the field in England! Boom! I hear Man Utd is having defensive difficulties…SIR ALEX!?!?

The Home of Rossington Main.

The Home of Rossington Main.

Overall, training has been good and it was nice to get into games, even if just for a few moments. I continue to work hard and wait for a breakthrough.

Special shout out to my youngest brother Desmond who turns a whopping 2 tomorrow. He’s always got bruises on his face from falling down head first…what an inspiration! Love him.

I wish you all a blessed and reflective advent!

Until next time Peace out.

Seano