The Process

I feel like I need to introduce myself again, it’s been that long. So, first I should apologize for staying away so long. I have had plenty to tell you, but never the inspiration.

There have been numerous other attempts to start blogging again; posts with titles such as “Square One” and “The Return”. However, they never really got past the introduction phase. In recent weeks, though, I have been on a quest to resurrect my creative writing urges. Where did they go? I’m not really sure, but I’d like to think they are there somewhere. So, in writing this post, I’m really just playing hide and seek with my inner author.

The first thing I had to do was commit to staying off of other sites while I write this post. I was going to go down to the local coffee shop with no wifi, so I wouldn’t even be tempted, but I’m weak, so I’m at the one that has wifi because I have a loyalty card here and God forbid I have to get 10 coffees before I get my free one as opposed to the usual 9.

Anyway, I really am going to have to push through this first post. I won’t be able to go into much detail because I’ve done quite a bit, but I will try to give you a good update of where I am and hopefully reignite my writing bug for the future.

It’s hard to admit, but if I really look at it, I think I haven’t been writing because of my own perceived failures. I haven’t really been achieving the success or consistency I had hoped to upon my return to the UK, which was back in July. In preseason I was all over; training with 4 different teams and ultimately living in 4 different places.

I won’t bore you with details, but it has landed my in Southern England about an hour west of London in  a little town called Newbury. I moved here to play with an ambitious team called Hungerford Town. I came down during preseason and did well in training and a few practice games (including a great goal in one – if I may say so myself). I was looking forward to the new start after the lack of opportunity and progress I made at Guiseley last year.

The Newbury Train Station - my link to the outside world

The Newbury Train Station – my link to the outside world

Unfortunately, things haven’t quite gone as planned on a personal level. First of all, it took a number of weeks for me to get my international clearance (because I had played in an American League over the summer). Then once it came through and I was eligible to play, Hungerford immediately started a turn around from a dreadful start to the season and have won every league game since losing 4 out of their first 5. This made it hard for the manager to change too many things in regards to personnel and tactics.

Hungerford Town ground - Bulpit Lane

Hungerford Town ground – Bulpit Lane

Since I wasn’t playing as much as I would have liked, I spoke with the Manager about the possibility of going out on loan for a short period with any other local team to maintain fitness and sharpness. He immediately helped set me up with another team in the division below called Thatcham Town FC. I played a game a few days later, which was great…except we lost. We managed to lose the next two games as well, which was painful and not the biggest confidence boost. However, I was getting good and fit and starting to improve, and playing is always better than not playing.

Thatcham's Ground - Waterside Park (located by the side of the Kennet River)

Thatcham’s Ground – Waterside Park (located by the side of the Kennet River)

Timing, however, was not the best, because, due to scheduling changes we only had 3 games in a period where we could have had up to 5 or 6. To add to that, the poor run in form meant that the manager of Thatcham Town, quite a friendly bloke, was shown the door. Meaning, I don’t know where I stand with the changes at hand and I will probably be going back to Hungerford, without any guarantee of time, despite the work I put in.

So many great and wonderful stories in life have a “right place at the right time” element – mine seems to have a persistent “wrong place at the wrong time” theme.

Deep down, I find myself fighting my own self-pity. What gives? I ask myself. Of course, this is really pathetic, and when I really think about it, I’m embarrassed at the very thought of pitying myself. I’m blessed beyond what I deserve. I know that, but I’ll still find excuses and injustices against me like Sherlock finds the crook. It’s a special gift.

All that moaning and complaining has, thankfully, led me to an improved outlook. As so often happens, this change came about originally from the unlikeliest of sources. An English player named Joey Barton, who is quite an entertaining, but also controversial character over here, was in an interview and mentioned the importance of the process. He was talking about developing players and he said something in the vein of “no one appreciates the process anymore”.

Essentially meaning that we all just want the outcome. For footballers that’s making a good living as a professional for a big club team, or for your country and making plenty of money. However, no one wants to think about putting the work in every day behind the scenes; there is a lack of appreciation for the blood, sweat and tears that no one sees.

This made me think about things and a few days later, I was talking with my sister, Clare, and Barton’s comment tied in with our conversation, so I brought it up. Clare and I chatted about it and I suddenly came to this realization that the story is always in the process; never in the outcome.

So, here I was, not blogging because I wanted to blog about the big outcomes! I wanted to blog about the great step I was making here or there. I wanted to blog about achievements. That is probably precisely why I haven’t been inspired to blog. There is no story in the outcome. The story is in the process.

I’d like to think that I’ve always appreciated the process of anything. I’m never afraid to put in the work and I will always continue to do so. Yet, I never realized until recently that there is no story in the achievement itself. The achievements are what we put on a resume and that’s why they are only a few pages of lists. Stories lie in creating that achievement and that’s what we find in the intricacies of a journey well told.

I recently read a book called “A Long Way Gone“, about a young man who had been a boy soldier in the Sierra Leone Civil War. He survived this ordeal and eventually made his way to the USA where he has recovered and now works to fight worldwide injustice. In a nutshell, that last sentence was his achievement so far, but it’s not the story itself. That lies within the pages of the book and in the depths of his heart and soul.

Having said that, the process of the last 5 or 6 months has plenty to say for itself. I’ve been all over the place, I’ve got to explore a new part of England, including the ever intriguing city of London. I’ve even managed to get home once for a wedding, which was an incredible blessing for me. I haven’t even had the chance to blog about my incredible mission trip to St. Lucia, all the way back in May.

I’ll save all that and more for another day in the process of pursing my dream one mistake at a time.

Until them enjoy the process of life!

Peace,

Seano

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Sir Alex Ferguson

Some say it is the football equivalent of the fall of the Berlin wall. Many were unsure that the day would ever come. Most are willing to show their admiration and respect. And a select and very special few think that the Black Eyed Peas have disbanded, due to “Fergie” retiring. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be true.

Love him or hate him, Sir Alex Ferguson will go down in history as one of the best managers is professional sports.

He has been the epitome of continuity, consistency, and success in a football world fraught with change. He was an immovable rock jutting out of the tumultuous flow of the football world. However, even the toughest rock will not last forever against the constant battering of nature.

The inevitable day has come that all Manchester United fans have been dreading and all others have been silently, or not so silently, hoping for; Sir Alex Ferguson will retire his post as manager of Manchester United Football Club.

At this point, I’m sure most of us have heard about this already, and I could give you a litany of his accomplishments, but that has been done already all over the internet and on newspapers worldwide.

The one statistic, however, that I would like to know, is how many Manchester United supporters even know a Manchester United without Sir Alex? The growth of the premier league, on a global scale, means over the past 2 decades most new fans worldwide, haven’t lived without another United manager. This is like having the same president for nearly 27 years, you would begin to think he wasn’t going away. I would guess, and this is just a guess, that over 90% of United fans, have only ever known United during Sir Alex Ferguson’s era.

You have probably also heard about his newly appointed successor: David Moyes

Well, it’s controversy galore, as it was always going to be. Really, no one is going to fit into the shoes of Sir Alex, but here is my 4 cents on why I think Moyes just might be the man for United.

1: Respect of Players – During this weeks events, and ever for that matter, did you hear any past players show anything but respect for Ferguson. Similarly, did any of David Moyes’ past or present players show any doubt in his abilities or show any lack of respect to him as the leader of their team. Now, I know that both Ferguson and Moyes have had disagreements with players in the past. It is natural, and sometimes beneficial, to have arguments. However, even those players who have left these two managers in the past, have noted the respect and admiration they have for these two men. The same can not always be said for other possible candidates.

2: Liverpool – Ferguson’s main goal when taking over so many years ago was to “knock Liverpool of their @#%#$% perch”. This has led to one of the biggest rivalries in the footballing world today. The not-derby to end all derbies. After 25 plus years (in 2011), Ferguson was finally able to do that, in a domestic sense, after leading United to their 19th league title, and surpassing Liverpool’s record of 18. Ferguson’s successor had to be someone who understood this rivalry. The man who took Everton FC out of the shadow of their Merseyside rival, surely knows what it means to go to battle against Liverpool.

3: Stability – The biggest criticism of Moyes’ appointment was his lack of European experience. This is a valid point, considering he has very little. However, while Moyes may not have the European experience as others, he has shown the ability to provide something even more rare in modern football: stability. Stability is also something that Manchester United fans have grown accustomed to. Are there sexier managers? Sure. Are there more reliable managers? I doubt it.

4: Fergie’s Recommendation – If there is one thing that United fans have learned throughout the past 27 years, it is to trust Sir Alex. I, for one, have questioned him numerous times and it has nearly always ended the same way; me being wrong. After 27 years of him getting it right, I find it hard to argue with his recommendation to appoint Moyes his successor.

It’s never going to be an easy transition for the Club, but I’m looking forward to getting to know this new United.

As is always the case, only time will tell.

Thank you Sir Alex!

Welcome Moyes!

See you next season,

Peace,

Seano

Squeaky Bum Time

Sometimes it can be hard to remember how time zones relate to one another. Is it 5 or 6 hours ahead, or behind? What part of the country are you in…East? West? Then, of course, there are other things to remember, like the fact that daylight savings is at different times in different countries, so sometimes the zones are less or more hours apart? Sigh.

So, if you are wondering what time it is over here, the answer is squeaky bum time!

If that doesn’t help, let me give you a little background. You can not tell squeaky bum time on a watch, it defies the traditional use of timekeeping.

The phrase was coined by the esteemed Sir Alex Ferguson; 27 year manager of Manchester United – I know, let the bias creep in. According to Collin’s Dictionary online, it means  “the tense final matches (or minutes) in the race to a league championship (or any championship/achievement)”.

Squeaky Bum book

Another definition that I found elaborated even further, describing “Squeaky Bum Time” as the sound your bum makes shifting around on the edge of your seat during the most tense periods of a competition.

Frankly, I don’t care what you think about Manchester United, or Sir Alex Ferguson, the phrase is not only incredibly apt – not to mention, fun to say –  it is also something that most people can say they have experienced in some part of their life. I think it is safe to say that it is “squeaky bum” moments that really make the sporting world go round.

While the climax of “squeaky bum time” usually only lasts a few moments, the build-up can sometimes take weeks. The longer the build-up the squeakier the bums.

I am currently in the middle of a squeaky bum extravaganza. No, that is not my way of saying that I have really bad gas.

AT THE SOURCE:

To begin with, a few weeks ago, I was lucky to experience Squeaky Bum Time with Fergie himself, at the place that he calls home (well at least in footballing terms). I was offered the opportunity from a relative to go to another game at Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on Aston Villa. It was only after I jumped on the opportunity, that I realized that this game was a chance for Manchester United to mathematically claim their 20th Premier League title.

This time around; however, the tension was to a minimum. First of all, United was running away with the title and only needed to get a result in 1 of their next 5 games in order to win the title. Also, any concern that struggling Aston Villa was going to cause an upset was nipped in the bud when Robin Van Persie scored in the first 2 minutes of the game. He then put the game to bed with a hat-trick before the conclusion of the first half.

Compared to the epic conclusion of the Premier League last year, where United’s cross town rivals, Manchester City, won the title with mere minutes to go in the last game, this was, admittedly, less squeaky.

The consistency that United showed this year meant they won the title with emphatic confidence, rather than squeaky excitement. I am not saying that one way of winning is any less fulfilling than the other. I am sure the Euphoria is the same either way. However, on that Monday night against Aston Villa, the only squeaky bums in the last few minutes of the game, were those of the last few fans to jump up and join  in the celebrations.

To be at Old Trafford on the night United won a record setting 20th title is something that I will always remember. The highlight of the game was definitely the 2nd goal. I won’t explain it, I will just show you the video below. It was sublime!

One of my favorite memories of the celebrations was singing the Man United version of John Denver’s “Country Roads”: “United Road”. I could have stayed in the stands all night singing along with the players down on the pitch.

Van Persie’s 2nd Goal:

Here is the Song:

Also a few shots of my night at Old Trafford:

SQUEAKY BUMS AT GUISELEY:

Back at Guiseley, the Squeaky Bums have been so loud recently there have been reports of anxiety attacks and insomnia.

In personal news, I started my first league game so far this year. While the game meant little for the team in terms of final league positions, it was really only squeaky bum time for me; a chance to finally play significant minutes in a league game. In a way, it was like a 2nd job interview or audition.

I was excited for the opportunity to play. Unfortunately, squeaky bum time only ends one of two ways no matter how well you play. You win or you lose. In this case, we lost…to the team in very last place; Hinckley United. The only thing that could have probably made it worse, is if I had scored an own goal and then got sent off. It was a strange game. I, and no one on the team, played particularly poorly, but something was amiss. Also, credit to Hinckley who was up for it and played as though they had nothing to lose (which they didn’t). Sometimes life just gives you those days and the best thing to do is move on.

While I had my pout, as a club, we had bigger things on the horizon: Playoffs.

A playoff is the quintessential Squeaky Bum scenario. In this case, four teams from the league (Blue Square Conference North) make playoffs; 2nd place through 5th place. As 2nd seed, we drew the 5th place team; Halifax Town FC our Yorkshire rivals.

In the semi-final, you play two games; one home and one away. The team with the better record after two games will go through to the 1-game final. That is essentially 270 + minutes of Squeaky Bum football. The winner of the final earns the right to be promoted into the next division of football (Blue Square Conference Premier).

The 1st leg of our semi-final was away to Halifax Town and went relatively well. It ended in a 1-1 draw. We were under pressure for most of the game as they used the momentum of the home crowd to keep us pinned back in our half. They scored from a penalty kick early in the first half and gave us a few serious scares throughout, including one or two off of the woodwork. Fortunately, we weathered the storm and managed to score our own late in the 2nd half through a towering header from the ever trusty central defender Danny Ellis.

The remaining time was tense for both sides and but for a great reaction save from their goalkeeper from a Josh Wilson effort in the last minutes, we could have left town with all the spoils. In the end, we return home with all to play for at Nethermoor Park: home of the Lions.

Tomorrow (Sat the 6th of May) is the 2nd semi-final game, which is really just a final before the final because we have to win or there will be no final.

I know there are plenty of Guiseley fans who recommend me getting my head checked for supporting Manchester United. However, they would be happy to know that as I was singing and shouting after the game at Old Trafford, I couldn’t help but think to myself that the real celebrations will begin when Guiseley earn promotion.

As I said, the longer the build-up, the squeakier the bums. Guiseley has been to playoffs three years running, the bums don’t get much squeakier than that.

It doesn’t get much better.

WE ARE GUISELEY!!!!

Peace,

Seano

To note:

I would encourage you to follow the game tomorrow. Promotion is an equally cruel and exciting event and thus vastly entertaining! There will be a radio feed that I will try to get out to you before the game, but you can also follow Guiseley’s twitter, which will keep you up to date.

I would also like to thank all of you who helped me with the fundraising for my mission trip. You’re generosity is incredible. If you didn’t get a chance last time, I haven’t quite met my goals and it’s getting to be Squeaky Bum Time in that regard. So if you are so inclined, I could still use a few pennies here and there. Please visit Mission Trip Fund Page to help out 🙂 Thanks again!

Lastly, if you didn’t see it. I wrote a piece for the team website called A Mental Victory. I wrote it right after we beat the league Champions, Chester City, who have already earned promotion for finishing at the top of the league.

Patience

A family friend was once visiting my house and my little sister, who was probably no older than 5 at the time, was demanding something from them while they were in the process of getting her exactly what she was demanding. They looked and her and said “Patient is a virtue, virtue is a Grace, Grace is a little girl who doesn’t wash her face”. While Grace, who is now in College, probably doesn’t remember this specific instance, her cruel older siblings made sure the little ditty didn’t leave her memory – which clearly means I said it over and over.

While it was originally used merely as a means to silence and confuse a child by the use of eloquent language and literary devices, it has stuck with me for a while now. I now wash my face everyday!

What? I have a new sponsorship deal.

What? I have a new sponsorship deal.

In reality, patience is crucial to have for almost anything you do in life. Good things generally don’t happen in an instant. I know the good old Bible says “knock and you shall receive” but it never says how many times you have to knock. That is where patience comes in.

I can assure you that patience is very often needed in football. The last two Guiseley AFC games were won with patience. We kept on knocking on the door, so to speak. The door being the stingy defensive efforts of Corby Town and Oxford City, our two most recent opponents. We won the games 2-1 and 1-0, respectively, and although we dominated most of the statistics – offensively that is – it wasn’t an easy task. Both games were won with second half goals.

In the first win, against Corby Town, the visitors managed to steal a goal against the run of play. We continued to get chances the entire game, which they were desperately throwing themselves in front of. Eventually, by patiently building up the pressure, we were able to get the two goals that we needed for the important victory.

You could say Oxford City set up specifically to test our patience. Fortunately, Guiseley passed the Oxford test, scoring the only goal of the game early in the second half. We were patient, but determined and literally bundled the ball over the line after numerous corners and scraps in front of the box. We certainly weren’t knocking gently, but we got the answer we needed at the time.

Barcalona, arguably the best club team the world has ever seen, are always patient on the ball. They pass and probe and knock, waiting for the door to open – or in their case, it’s more like they unlock the door. Another example would be Manchester United, who are famous for their late victories (see here and here). They have a belief that the late goal will come. The best teams know how to be patient, because they are confident that their knocking will be answered.

FYI: Some things might not be worth it!

FYI: Some things might not be worth it!

For me personally, my success in sport so far has often come after patience. I started off as essentially a laundry boy who trained with the team in University, but was patient and eventually earned a starting position; ending my college days as a nationally recognized NCAA student athlete. I spent plenty of time on the bench at some of my other teams in the past, before becoming an integral part of the squad. I know that with patience, coupled with hard work, I am able to move forward. But it is patience with the confidence that if I keep knocking the door will be opened.

Let me also point out that patience is not always inaction. That is usually laziness – of which I am often guilty. Patience is positive action in the pursuit of a devious goal.

Patience is important in just about anything. I have some friends who are musicians, waiting for their big break. I have seen them knocking, knocking, and knocking, while patiently waiting for that door to open. The knocking comes in the form of hard, hard work for them. Fingers bleeding, eyes bloodshot, and bad hair day after bad hair day sort of work. Then they hear the scuffling behind the door and a glimmer of hope…they keep knocking, keep knocking. The sound fades, but they keep knocking, keep knocking. The patience and determination is eventually rewarded.

Not many people make it to a celebrity status within their field without this kind of patience and dedication. To maintain that status, the patience and dedication must remain as well.

I am waiting for Vizzini!

I am waiting for Vizzini!

Patience is necessary for so many other aspects of life as well: waiting in lines, waiting for girlfriends(boyfriends), waiting for results, waiting for promotions, waiting for 5 o’clock somewhere, waiting for the weekend, waiting for summer, waiting for Vizzini, waiting for fast food (seriously?), and waiting for babies. Which brings me to the true inspiration behind this post: my cousin who is expecting her second child. Wait…what?

No but seriously, I asked her if there was any news? She said *sigh* “no, I’ve just had to wait patiently” *sigh*. I feel like waiting to have a baby might be something like waiting to throw up when you know it’s inevitable. You wish you didn’t have to feel so much worse and so vulnerable before feeling better. Anyway, I told her she was just being lazy and that the baby was just a devious goal that she was in pursuit of and that she needed to take more positive action.

After she cyber slapped me across the face, I realized that patience is really a huge part of our everyday lives and applies to so many areas. I knew that I could at least relate it to so many things that I have experienced, especially in football. So, this post is dedicated to my cousin Catherine and I wish her and her new baby girl the best!

If you have trouble with patience, it is important to remember that patience “is a Grace”. We can’t get Graces for ourselves, we need to rely on God for them. So, if you find yourself needing patience, ask him for it.

A few things of further interest:

I will be writing some articles for the team website which you may be interested in. Here is my first one. I will keep you posted on them in the future. They will be more soccer related.

We have also won 5-2 away at Bishop Stortford since my last post

Here are the links to a few local news stories for Guiseley:

Ruthless Streak all that’s needed

Keeping the pressure on

Cutting the Gap on Leaders

Lastly, next time you are waiting on one of my posts…be patient 😉

Till next time,

Seano!

PS: knocking with your head is not advised

New Year

I would never have thought I would be happy to say that  I started the New Year with a kickin debut(t)! Sorry, I know that is a stretch 😉

In the last week of 2012, it appeared that the rain gods still weren’t sure if the Mayan’s apocalyptic predictions had actually been called off. Yet, after all the efforts of mother nature to flood the whole of the UK, they rain finally ceased on New Years eve and the ground dried up enough (arguably) for us to play our New Years Day game. “Play mud football in England” has now been added to and checked off my bucket-list.

What we hoped it would be like...

What we hoped it would be like…

What it was actually like

What it was actually like

In reality, the field was playable, albeit quite soft and, in the end, muddy. As the season goes on it is important to get as many games played as possible since the schedule is already very packed, so it was just as well that the game was played (especially considering our Dec 29th game had just been cancelled).

So, on January 1st, 2013 Guiseley AFC made the trip across Bradford to play local rivals Bradford Park Avenue (BPA) for the 2nd time in the space of 6 days. As we had seen on Boxing Day, BPA were a good side who posed a significant challenge, particularly at their home ground: Horsfall Stadium.  Add to the mix the poor field and windy conditions and it was clear that earning 3 points to bring in the New Year was no easy task.

If football really is “a game of two halves”, you could call each half in this game “against wind” and “with wind”.

Against Wind

Dramatization - in case you were wondering

Dramatization – in case you were wondering

We were against the wind in the first half and it definitely presented a difficult problem for us. However, we held our own for most of the half and actually went up 1-0 after about 25 minutes. Our forward, Josh Wilson, got the ball on the left side of the box before cutting inside and finishing neatly into the bottom right corner. One of the biggest setbacks of the wind was that our goalkeeper’s clearances and delivery, which are normally very good, were below par. This turned out to be our undoing for the tying goal, as a poor clearance led to a BPA corner, which ultimately led to the opposition’s goal just before half-time.

Half-Time 1-1

With Wind

No, we didn't have umbrellas

No, we didn’t have umbrellas

Despite a few scares from the home side, we dominated most of the second half proceedings and were looking more potent than in the first half. It was BPA’s turn to fight the wind, as well as the opposition. In messy games, in poor conditions, it is often free-kicks that decide games (another cliche, I’m sorry). This proved as true in 2013 as it did in 2012, and we pulled ahead in the 74th minute when our captain, midfielder Andy Holdsworth, beat the goalkeeper with a low drive off a free kick from a few yards outside the box. Within 5 minutes he was at it again with a similar free kick from a slightly more difficult angle. All we had left to do was see out the game…and we did.

Full-time 1-3 to Guiseley AFC

Debut

On a personal note, I was happy to kick off the year with my Guiseley debut! After our 3rd goal, I was put on for the final minutes and essentially needed to make sure I didn’t undo all the hard work my teammates had done in the previous 80 minutes. I thankfully managed that. Overall it was a relatively nondescript debut, I misplaced a few passes and I made a few passes. Now that I have gotten the debut out of the way, I can focus on continuing to work hard so as to benefit the team.

In regards to my debut, it is a bit ironic that I played my first game for Guiseley at Horsfall stadium, since it was the first place that I trained here in England. It was just a few weeks after I got here and after contacting loads of teams I finally got a session with Bradford Park Avenue. It went relatively well on the day as we scrimmaged a lower division side called Albion Sports. I had an assist and we managed to come from behind after I came on. I trained with them one other time after that, but was never asked to come out again.

Of course, at the time, I was a bit disappointed as things weren’t going so well. My continued search for a team was relatively unproductive and I was only playing a few games here and there with some lower division sides. Having come to play football, it was demoralizing not to have the opportunity to be playing or training with a team. It is hard to stay focused and push yourself when you train alone. However, thanks to the wonderful clarity of hindsight, things seem to have worked out for the best. If things had worked out at BPA, I would have been on the end of two losses this past week – and a few angry dressing room rant to be sure – but instead I was celebrating two wins with a side that is pushing hard for promotion.

I thought this was appropriate for the New Year’s theme of resolutions. The tough part is not making the resolution, it’s sticking with it consistently over a long period of time. It’s not trying to meet a goal and then quitting when faced with adversity. It is not meeting a goal and then stopping; it is hitting a plateau and then searching for a new summit. You also need to take all the opportunities you are given and while realizing that not all of them will lead you on, you can learn from each one. In doing so, you will be better equipped when the right chances do arrive.

Along these lines, I found it very timely to read about Demba Ba, just before his big move to Chelsea. Apparently, he was rejected by a number of clubs both in England and France before he made it to where he is today – that is with the Champions of Europe. Not all paths are straight, and none of them are the same so your gonna have to make your own.

Demba Ba at Newcastle

Demba Ba at Newcastle

As they say – yes, another cliche – “if it was easy, everyone would do it”

Have a wonderful 2013!

Peace

Seano