Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Burn Notice Season 6 Review

Last Thursday was the season 6 finale of my favorite TV show on the planet, Burn Notice.  Usually I'm so bummed when the season finale is over because it means I have to wait until the next June to find out what happens next.  The show is always so fast paced, and full of witty humor, with fantastic villans and plot developments.  However, this season I couldn't help but wonder when it was going to end!  And that's VERY hard for me to admit, trust me.

So what happened this season?  Why does it feel like season 6 of my favorite show became its "jumping the shark" moment?

Season 6 definitely didn't start that way.  When we last left our favorite burned spy, he was trying to get out from under the greatest villan the show has created.  Anson had evidence regarding a consulate bombing that would send Fiona to jail unless Michael did a lot of really horrible things for him.  Fiona took matters into her own hands, and turned herself in so that Michael would no longer have to do Anson's bidding.

We pick up right where season five ended.  Michael and Sam look all over Miami for Anson.  Jason Bly, a sometime friend/foe of Michael's interrogates Fiona after she is arrested.  Bly tries to get Fiona to give up information on Michael's involvement, and even goes as far as saying he died in a truck explosion.  Luckily, Fiona sees through the deception and sticks with the story that she acted alone at the British consulate bombing...(which wasn't her fault, but was done by Anson).  Anson attempts to distract Michael from hunting him by sending a psycho Army Ranger to kill Maddie, Michael's mother.  Jesse is able to help her with that....well, sort of.  Michael finally catches up to Anson inside a chemical plant.  He's about to bring him in when Anson reveals a dead-man switch that will trigger a bomb in the plant, and that allows Anson to escape.

Below is a FANTASTIC fan video all about the first episode of the season, "Scorched Earth".  (If the video doesn't come right up, click on the link that says, 'Watch on YouTube')  At about 2:40 into the video, all Burn Notice fans were jumping and screaming to join in with Michael.

So overall, the first episode was what we have come to expect from this awesome show:  incredible car chases, explosions, edge of your seat entertainment, and being able to feel the emotions Michael is feeling.

The next few episodes focused on Fiona while she was in prison.  We saw her trying to adjust, and fight for her life WAY TOO OFTEN.  I've heard stories about weapons in prison, but it seemed like Fiona was marked for death by almost very woman in the prison.

To gain visitation rights, Michael offered his services to the CIA agent who trained him:  a man named Tom Card.

Michael's younger brother, Nate also returns to Miami, telling his family that his marriage is falling apart.

It turns out that Fiona is in fact targeted for murder, so she does all she can to find out who is after her.  She manages to get a message to Michael when he comes to visit her.  Michael, Sam, and Jesse head to the Everglades to try and find the prison guard trying to kill Fiona, but instead they find him dead at the hands of Rebecca, who is a burned CIA agent now working for Anson.  Rebecca takes Sam hostage, but in the end Sam manages to get Rebecca to reveal that she's only following Anson's orders to keep her brother alive.  Rebecca decides to work with them to take Anson down.

Tom Card offers Fiona a deal to become a CIA assett, which will get her out of prison, and protect her from extradition to Ireland.  Let's just say there are a few people who want nothing more than Fiona's head on a stick!  Michael and Sam protect Rebecca's brother from a mob boss, and Rebecca reveals that she knows where Anson will be in the next few days.  It's beginning to look like they are finally one step ahead of this incredible villan.

Fiona is about to be released when an agent from MI6 tries to prevent that from happening.  They believe she blew up their consolate and want answers, among other things.

Fiona has befriended another inmate named Ayn, who has become her one and only ally.  Ayn has most of the prison guards wrapped around her finger, and has been able to help Fiona stay alive while in prison.   Fiona turns to Ayn for help.

Fiona entices Ayn by telling her that if she hides Fiona, Ayn should be the person who finds her, and that working with the warden would help shorten her jail time.  Ayn likes that idea and Fiona hides in a hole she made in a library wall.

Meanwhile, Michael, Jesse, Pearce, and Nate travel to Atlantic City to capture Anson.  I wrote a blog post about this entire episode when it first happened.  Click here to read all about what happens next.  One of the clips from the post has been removed from YouTube, but you'll see it shortly.

The following fan video contains clips from the episode "Shock Wave" and "Reunion".  Sam is helping Barry, their money laundering friend escape from some men who are very angry at him.  Remember in my earlier post how dumb I thought it was that Sam wasn't allowed to go with the team to get Anson?  Yep, this is what he did instead.

Out of jail and reunited with Michael, they are now completely focused on finding the man that murdered Nate.  Fiona participates in her first assignment as an official CIA asset, and it nearly gets her killed.  It's also her last assignment as an asset.  Somehow the paperwork "got lost".  Sam and Jesse find the name of the sniper that killed Nate:  Tyler Gray.

The team tracks Tyler Gray to Panama, where they meet up with another agent who was in charge of a botched attempt to capture Anson.  They fight through Gray's hired guns.  Michael is able to capture Gray, but he reveals to Michael that Tom Card set up the entire operation to be a suicide mission for Michael and his team.  Brady sacrifices himself, and they barely escape an F-18 that was sent to kill them.  Tom Card is told that everything has been "taken care of", and he believes everyone is dead.  The group is left stuck in Panama, out of resources, and wondering what their next move will be.

So, Tom Card is the bad guy.  The "good guy" who taught Michael everything he knows about being a spy.  I didn't see this coming, much to my dismay.

The show went on its summer break and came back strong.

The team manages to get back to the states.  Gray, who had been told lies about Michael by Card to make him look like a horrible person, has now agreed to help stop Card.  Tyler Gray has convinced Card that Michael and the team have been eliminated, and Card asks him to dig up any information Michael may have had on Anson and then torch Michael's loft.

Torching the loft was the first sign of a downhill spiral for me.

Michael eventually confronts Card.  During a very tense conversation, Card shoots Tyler Gray in front of Michael, attempts to appeal to the "we do what we have to do" side of Michael, and Michael responds by killing Tom Card.

Up until this point, Burn Notice was delivering all that fans have come to love.  If torching the loft began the down spiral, the moment Michael shot Card, (who was unarmed when he was shot) the down spiral went spinning out of control.

Apparently Tom Card had used Anson and Tyler Gray for unauthorized operations around the world, and was planning to do the same with Michael.  Card realized that Michael was closing in on Anson, so to protect himself, he had Gray kill Anson, and Nate as well.

The next three episodes of Burn Notice seem to take an eternity to get through.  It turns into one problem after another.  The show now focuses on getting everyone out of the country.  They turn to a smuggler named Schmidt, played by Patton Oswalt.  I'm not very familiar with this actor, but holy cow, his character is the most annoying man I've ever seen on Burn Notice.  Schmidt can get the passports and paperwork, but he needs their help first.  Then they discover the passports won't work, so he turns to another supplier for new passports and learns that the price has gone up.  The team has to recover a high tech gadget from Schmidt's heavily guarded warehouse and get it to a client.  Of course the device is shot up so they have to attempt to repair it.

Riley pressures Maddie, Michael's mom into giving up their location, so Maddie decides to go on the run with them.

They finally get their passports from the obnoxious Schmidt, they just need the microchip implants from a rival smuggler of Schmidt's.  Vanek, the smuggler, wants revenge against Schmidt for costing him millions in a past deal, and FOR CALLING THE FEDS ON HIM!

I was hoping to only have to endure one episode of Schmidt.  By the time "Odd Man Out" arrives, we've been forced this stupid character for the third straight hour.  Instead, they all get trapped in a warehouse and have to figure out how to escape.

By this time there's no doubt in my mind that Michael and company will not get out of the country.  It's also been made very apparent that Riley and the CIA are idiots.  For all the "hunting" they claim to do, and for how much they say they want Michael arrested, why is there no one at Nate's grave watching for them to show up?  Jesse, Fiona, and Schmidt escaped from Schmidt's warehouse when the CIA was right outside the door.  Really?  I doubt that would actually happen.  Most seasons I can't believe it's already time for the finale; not this year.

Schmidt's stupid behavior, the antics that never stop, Riley's "wannabe" tough cop routine, and the simple fact that Michael shot Card in cold blood made the last 3-4 episodes very boring and difficult to believe.

Back in early November, before the show came back from its summer hiatus, I read an article where actor Jeffrey Donovan, who plays Michael Westen, was interviewed.  He said the following,

"Michael makes a decision which affects not only his friends but Fiona," Donovan says.  "There is going to be a huge betrayal.  I think the audience is going to be excited to see Season 7 to see where Michael will go after making on of the worst decisions he has ever made."

With this statement hanging over my head, exciting me to see what the heck was going to happen, we move into the season finale.

Looks promising, right?

The flowers on Nate's grave were from Agent Bly, the man who interrogated Fiona at the beginning of the season.  Bly is a CSS agent from season 1 who wanted to destroy Michael, and turned out to be a sort of ally for him.  After seeing the flowers, I kept wondering who it was going to be.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Anyway, Michael agrees to meet Bly who offers Michael a deal.  Michael declines, but instead tries one more time to get everyone out of the country.  It doesn't work though.  Jesse is captured, and Sam gets shot.  For anyone who was freaking out that Sam was going to die......SERIOUSLY?  They were never going to kill Sam off, so his being shot served no real purpose for the episode.  The first hour was all about saving Sam, who we knew was going to live anyway, and watching Riley attempt to interrogate Jesse.  Michael and Fiona managed to rescue Jesse, end of hour one.

They spend the night at the home of a doctor who owes Fiona a favor.  Sam gets patched up and during the night, men with guns storm the home.  After the raid they discover that they weren't agents, but members of a drug cartel that has a vendetta against Michael.  Apparently clean, but mean Agent Riley has gone rogue, hiring a cartel to take out Michael.

Hold on a minute.  We've now watched Riley for 4 straight episodes do a legal, but crappy job of hunting Michael down.  What in the world made her decide to throw her career away and hire the cartel?  Was she always a dirty cop?  She could've used them to track Michael and then send in the real police.  This twist made no sense to me at all.  However, it gave Michael the leverage he needed.

Michael went back to Bly, told him about Riley and what happened, and he agreed to help Michael gather evidence against her that could be used to clear Michael and company.  Bly and Michael tail Riley to a meeting with the cartel leader.  While gathering info, a cartel member impersonating a marina security guard, approaches their car and throws a grenade inside.  Michael manages to escape, but because Bly's seat belt won't open, he's trapped in the car and is killed in the explosion, along with all the evidence they collected.

Again, hold on.  The grenade could've been thrown out of the car.  But what really fries me about this character death is that it happened because his seat belt wouldn't open.'re going to stick with that idea?  Throughout its 6 year run, Burn Notice has killed many people.  I've disagreed with some, but to kill Bly this way, especially when he and Michael were finally almost friends!  Not right.

Michael boards the cartel leader's yacht and tells Riley that the Coast Guard is approaching because he called them.  A game of cat and mouse ends with Riley calling the deputy director to confess what she's done moments before the Coast Guard blows the yacht to kingdom come.

At this point, I'm still waiting for the "betrayal" Jeffrey Donovan promised.

We then see Maddie, Sam, Jesse, and Fiona all sitting in prison cells.  Fiona is released, and brought to a large room where Michael, dressed in a suit and tie, is talking to other agents.  It's at this point that I've realized something is different.  Usually when wearing a suit, Michael looks like this:

However,  in this scene, his suit is darker in color, like that of fellow CIA agents.  He also appears to be giving directions to other operatives.

Fiona embraces Michael, then asks what he's been doing for three weeks while they've been in holding cells. Fiona reminds Michael about the promise he made her back in Panama, that when this was all over, it would just be the two of them.  No more chasing after the people that burned him.  As the others are brought into the room, Michael says that he had to make a deal to get them all freed, he did what he had to do.  He goes to embrace Fiona again, and she won't let him touch her.  She breaks down into complete hysterics and says, "No, you did what you wanted to do."  And that ends season 6.

HUH?  Did I miss something?  How was that a "cliffhanger" for next season?  And more importantly, how in the world was that a betrayal?  Fiona has always wanted Michael to forget about the CIA, he's never been able to.  It's not like she doesn't know this about him.  There's no way he was ever going to really stop hunting.  But if it's a choice between his family and friends in jail forever, or him taking a deal.......gee, let me think about that for a moment....the choice is clear!  What we don't know is exactly what the deal was that Michael took.  Some people have speculated that he's going to prison.  I don't buy that.  We did that during the beginning of this season with Fiona.  Plus, a man going off to prison wouldn't be giving orders to those around him, and be dressed in a suit.  I believe he took over Card's job and is working full time for the CIA.  Does this mean he won't be around anymore?  Doubt it....he's the center of the show.  

Overall, I was so disappointed with the second half of this season.  I knew that killing Nate was going to change the dynamics, but man, the last 6 hours/episodes of this show were difficult to watch.  Throw away plots, ridiculous situations to overcome, new characters that made you want to poke your eyes out, I WANT MY SHOW BACK!  A cliffhanger that was anything but, and a betrayal that I haven't seen.  Oh, and did I mention that we never got the satisfaction of having Michael take down Anson, the greatest adversary Michael has faced to date?  He beat him up a little during the season premiere, but we all wanted Michael to take him down.  So unfair to the public!

I feel so robbed!  They have a lot to make up for next season.  Rumor is that it will be their final season.  Burn Notice wasn't renewed until September, so part of me wonders if this was being written as their final season and then was tweeked when the show was renewed.  Oh well.  I'll have to wait until June.

If you've hung in this long and are still reading this post, I love you and I leave you with this:  Burn Notice gag reels.  For some reason, no one has uploaded the season 3 gag reel onto YouTube.  If I knew how, I would do it.  Enjoy season 1, 2, 4, and 5.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Disney Buys Star Wars

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened" - Obi-Wan Kenobi

Unless you've been living somewhere with no access to the internet, you've probably heard all about this deal, and seen this picture.  George Lucas has sold Lucasfilm Ltd, Skywalker Sound, and Industrial Light & Magic to Disney for a whopping 4 BILLION dollars.  Oh, and Disney is already planning on making three more Star Wars movies set after Return of the Jedi....with George involved, in a small role.

When I first read about this, I almost threw up...and I'm not kidding!  DISNEY will now own EVERYTHING that has to do with my BELOVED Star Wars, and Indiana Jones....was George Lucas on drugs?  Disney is all about cartoons, not live action movies; are the new movies going to be cartoons? (more on that thought later)  My mind also immediately went to what a stupid idea three more movies is.  Does Disney not remember the train wreck now known as The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith?

I don't have anything against Disney, really I don't.  I watch Phineas & Ferb, and other Disney channel shows with Brandon every day.  Each year Disneyworld hosts a huge Star Wars weekend where, among other events, they host Dance Off with the Star Wars Stars.  It makes me laugh every year.  Here's part of the 2011 weekend.

I just don't like this all.

I read articles about this for a few days, knowing that I was definitely going to write about this.  I mean, come on, I have a Star Wars Saturday page on my blog!  Instead of writing about my snap judgement, I waited to see if any of the research would change my mind.  It did....a little bit.

So here it is; the good, the bad, the ugly, and the potential surrounding the Disney/Lucas deal.

The Good:
Disney owns Marvel.  I didn't know this until a few days ago.  They are responsible for Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers.  Let's face it...those movies are AWESOME.  Hope began to spring.

Disney owns Pixar.  George Lucas created Pixar, sold it to Steve Jobs in the 1980s, and then Jobs sold it to Disney.  Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, are all Pixar movies, and are FANTASTIC.  Knowing that Disney has also created great movies with Pixar, my hope continued to grow.  Maybe they wouldn't screw this up.

George Lucas won't be the director of the next three movies.  HALLELUIAH!!!  This is probably the BEST news.  Of the six Star Wars movies, by far the best one is The Empire Strikes Back; directed by Irvin Kershner.  If Disney springs for a great director, like Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, Jon Favreau, maybe there is potential.

This one is both good and bad.  In regards to the story for episodes 7-9:  most hard core Star Wars fans consider The Thrawn Trilogy to be the only way to go.  It is the Bible for the Star Wars expanded universe.  It begins five years after Return of the Jedi.  All the expanded universe (EU for short) books began here, with this incredible story.  Hope continued to spring that maybe these books would be adapted to the screenplay.

I read that Lucas will be giving the majority of the 4 billion to charity.  That made me smile more than you know.  Kudos to George for that.  However, I'm a charity....could you send some my way, George?!?

The Bad:

The Clone Wars is a very successful cartoon currently on Cartoon Network.  It is the story of what happens to Anakin, Obi-Wan, and all the other Jedi and Sith after Attack of the Clones and before Revenge of the Sith.  It's a fantastic cartoon and it works because there are familiar characters.  It also allows for many characters to be created that we've never seen before.  What happens to it?  I read that they might be moving it over to the Disney XD channel.  Sorry Cartoon Network; looks like you're going to loose one of the biggest shows on your channel.

I read the next day that the new Star Wars movies were going to be original stories.  That means no Thrawn Trilogy.  There was a collective sigh among fans when we heard this.  Where hard core fans wanted to see this story on the big screen, myself included, we also realized that meant new actors for our heroes.  NO ONE except Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher can play Luke, Han, and Leia.  There's NO WAY they would, or even COULD do it now.  Besides the fact that they are in their late 60s, early 70s, they wouldn't be DUMB enough to do it again.  Heck, George Lucas had to beg Harrison Ford to come back for Return of the Jedi.  Ford thought Han Solo should've died in the carbon freezing.

How do you bring these three crucial characters into the story without replacing the actors?  And if you try, will Star Wars fans accept another actor in those roles....probably not.  I will have a very hard time accepting that, if it happens.

The Ugly:
(I'm really upset about this one!)

Leia is now considered a Disney Princess.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Disney princesses sing, dance, talk to animals, dishes, and trees.  In comparison to the Star Wars universe, Disney princesses want superficial things.  Ariel wanted to walk on the sand, Snow White was waiting for her prince to come, Jasmine was bored and wanted to be shown the world, as was Rapunzel.  They are railroad thin, and wield frying pans as weapons, NOT BLASTERS!  Disney can own Star Wars, but LEIA IS NOT A DISNEY PRINCESS!  SHE'S NOT EVEN A REAL PRINCESS!!  Remember, Georgie Boy made the prequels and we discovered that Leia isn't really a princess, because Padme was an ELECTED queen, not a "real" queen...but I digress.

Look at these pictures, what is wrong with them?

Beside the fact that Leia isn't dressed in a nice princess gown, she's holding a blaster!  Yep, real Disney princess-like, don't you agree?

I'm also simply not excited about three more movies.  I remember in 1997 when Lucas re-released the original (well, the altered original) in the theaters.  We were so excited about the prequels.  And then they were released.  They were, and still are AWFUL.  And after the prequels, and the many therapy sessions I had to attend after their release, I don't want three more movies!

Does this picture move anyone to puke like it does me?  The idea that our beloved characters are being reduced to look like Disney characters makes me sad.  It's OK if it's one weekend a year, but now it will become a staple.  Goofy dressed up like Darth Vader....really?  And why is he wearing red boxers on the outside of his outfit?  I fear that Star Wars is being turned into a big joke.

The Potential:
In the end it comes down to the story.  Will it be live action or a cartoon?  A great live action movie, with a great director has potential.  If they're able to find a way around not using our three main heroes, or finding actors who are very similar to those we know and love, it might work.  No more Jar-Jar Binks and other stupid characters that make us want to poke our eyes out with a fork!  

I hope that it works.  I hope that the legacy of Star Wars, which managed to survive the prequels, and Lucas's CONSTANT revisions of the originals, can make it through this.  I am so skeptical, but for the sake of my beloved movies, I hope that whatever comes to theaters in 2015 doesn't suck.  I'm not holding my breath.

In Conclusion:
We've gone from this COMPLETE AWESOMENESS:


The world will never be the same again.

Vader, I couldn't have said it better if I wanted to.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Burn Notice: Shock Wave

So, I usually wouldn't create an entire post about Burn Notice, but this last episode has me going crazy. If you're not a Burn Notice fan, enjoy the post, even though you may not understand it all. If you haven't seen the episode "Shock Wave" DON'T READ ANY FURTHER UNTIL YOU HAVE!

Welcome to the first, (and probably last!)

A little background on where the show is:

Last season (5), Burn Notice brought in the greatest villian yet....and that's saying a lot for this show.  He is the last man standing in the organization that not only burned Michael, but he's the last man left since Michael and his friends destroyed the organization piece by piece.  Oh, did I forget to mention that he's out to rebuild the network using any means necessary?  Yeah, bad, bad news.

His name is Anson Fullerton.  Long story short, he posed as a good guy needing help from Michael, framed Fiona for a murder she didn't commit and used his evidence as leverage to blackmail Michael.  End of season 5 Fiona turned herself in to authorities to get Michael out from under Anson's thumb.  She has been in jail and Michael has been doing all he can to find Anson and free Fiona. 

Basically that brings us to this episode.  I could go on and on, but you can read more about it here.  Just scroll down to the season synopsis.

K, so the creators of Burn Notice did something stupid in my opionion:  they told the audience that someone important would be killed during the promo for the episode Shock Wave

After watching this clip, I knew that it wasn't Jesse, Michael, or Pearce.  I also know there's NO WAY they would kill off Sam or Fiona.  So, I figured it was one of two people:  Rebecca, the dirty CIA agent that Anson was also blackmailing, or Nate, Michael's younger brother.

My suspicion was confirmed the moment I started watching the episode:  Michael is finally close to catching Anson, and the CIA won't let Sam, Michael's best friend and former Navy Seal, go with them.  Instead, they let Nate, a CIVILIAN, go with them.  What?!?  I have a hard time believing that any branch of government would let a civilian, like myself, with no training whatsoever, go on a mission to capture a murdering sociopath.  Guess I could be wrong.

The episode continued with Michael and Nate fighting.  Michael has always protected his brother.  When they were young, he protected him from their abusive father.  As an adult, when Nate would get into trouble, Michael would help bail him out.  This fighting continued to set the stage for what was going to happen.  The moment Michael ordered Nate out of the hotel room they were hiding out in, I knew Nate's time was over.  It was just a matter of how it was going to happen.  Was Anson going to find him?  What would he do to Nate? 

Suddenly, Michael calls Nate and asks him to "keep eyes" on Anson.  Apparently he's in the casino that Nate is at, and Michael needs time to get there.  Knowing Nate's character, I knew he was going to butt in...and he did.  Nate managed to sucker punch Anson (the BEST moment of the show, something that all Burn Notice fans have personally wanted to do for a year!), and it looked like Michael was finally going to get the man who had caused so much pain, destroyed so many lives, including Michael's.  However, this is television.  Does anything ever happen the way it should?

Roll the clip:

It's obvious who the real target was....Anson.  Nate was "collateral damage".  Nate's character had gone about as far as he could go.  Last season they tried to give him more of a storyline by having him get married and have a baby, but it felt like more of a "jump the shark" moment since we only saw his wife once, she was odd, and I believe we only saw the baby once. When he returned this season, he was getting a divorce and had fallen back into gambling again. No character growth usually = death of an expendable character. I knew Nate was going to die, but I still cried. Yeah, I'm that kind of dork!

So here's where I have issues with some of the events of this episode:

- Nate would NEVER have been allowed to go on that mission....period.  Sam would've been allowed to go.

- They made it SOOOO obvious who was going to die.  From fighting with Michael to all the dumb things he did on the mission (like ordering pizza, risking being seen by Anson), and then having Nate "keep eyes" on Anson, they practically painted a sign on Nate's face saying, "I'm going to be killed".

- Fiona had been working with the CIA to get out of jail.  I was under the impression that catching Anson meant she would be released.  He was killed.....maybe since he can't do any more harm they decided to completely believe the fact that Fiona had been framed?

- That was a massive hole blown through the wall when Nate and Anson died.  What in the world did that come from?

And my biggest issue with the episode:

MICHAEL DIDN'T GET TO TAKE ANSON DOWN!!!  We've waited a year to watch this awesome villian get what was coming to him, and instead of satisfaction, we now have to wait to find out who killed him!!!  Major disappointment. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Long and Winding Road

Yes, a Beatles reference.  Get ready, there will probably be more of them.

I've been trying to write this post for over a month, and I am still struggling with it today.  I don't know why, it's just hard.  I wasn't sure if I should just "Let it Be", but I need to get this off my chest.

So, the last few weeks of school were ridiculous.  Between ALL THE DATA the school requires (ya know, since they're a data driven school), the constant unorganization from the administration, and complete chaos going on around me, I was looking forward to summer so much.  My first year of teaching was almost under my belt, and I was so excited to once again start exercising and continue loosing weight.

School was out on Thursday, June 7th.  We had to come back on Friday, the 8th for our grade level district meetings.  We were going to plan out the next year.  Usually there are 7 people in our meeting.  Two for each 3rd grade class, and our Team Leader.  However, that day, there was an extra person in the room.  A lady who had been a Teacher in Training, hoping to acquire a job for the upcoming year.  I thought it was odd that she was there, but went with it.

The next Monday we had to go back to school for our contract resigning/evaluations.  They are an "at will" employer, so you resign each year.  Administration had set the times for us, and when I saw it the week earlier, I found it fishy that I was the last person to have my evaluation.  To be honest, I had this nagging feeling that wouldn't go away.

But let me go back for a moment.  A lady that works there, we'll call her S, decided she didn't like me, and to this day I have no idea why.  Unfortunately, S is the LAST PERSON you want not liking you.  Word is that administration doesn't like her, and has been trying to fire her.  I don't understand why that is something they're TRYING to do.  If it's an "at will" employer they should be able to can her if they like.  However, they keep her because they like how she disciplines the students who cause problems.  She puts the fear of God into them, and I'm not kidding.  She scares me, and I personally don't like how she disciplines, but I never vocalized this.  She's "Mean Mrs. Mustard" to the Beatles "Mean Mr. Mustard"!

One of our after school responsibilities is to teach an extended day class.  I was given those who needed help with their reading fluency.  Probably the most difficult class to do after school because you have to help one student at a time and keep the others reading.

I struggled with this in the beginning of the year, and I went to Administration and asked for tips on how to do it successfully.  No one ever came in to demonstrate and I finally figured out a way that worked for the class and never heard that I was doing anything wrong.

There are also cameras EVERYWHERE at that school.  The only places they can't be found are in the bathrooms....and I'm not kidding.  And Administration will watch each classroom at random to make sure the teacher is doing what they should be doing.  Well, since a teacher can't be 100% AT ALL TIMES, it's inevitable that Admin will catch you at about 80-90%, which happened to me in November.  I was called in and asked the watch the video and discover what I could have done better.  I was devistated, but I watched the video at home, and they were was bad.  After talking again with Admin, I NEVER HEARD ABOUT THIS AGAIN.  We have Academic Coaches that randomly come in during Reading and Math groups to evaluate us, and my evaluations were always great.

So now we're back to Monday.  You can probably guess where this is going, but the story gets better and better.  It was time for my evaluation/resigning when I saw S walk into the office with Admin.  The moment I sat down, I knew exactly what was happening, and I couldn't believe it. 

SAY WHAT?  I couldn't speak.  I was simply trying not to cry.  I was told that after having several demonstrations on how to improve teaching reading fluency (which is an absolute one ever came in to demonstrate), I hadn't improved in that area.  I was also told that my attitude was a problem.  This was brand new to me.  After the discussion in November, no one said another word about it; leaving me to believe I was doing great.  I didn't say a word back to them, I just got up and left.

I had to go talk to the nice lady in HR and turn over my Macintosh (which was the saddest part about being fired...not re-hired, whatever!)  She took my key, and then I realized that I still had personal stuff in what was my room.  She had to follow me to the room, and I suddenly felt like a criminal the way I was being followed around.  I left a lot of teaching stuff there, and later told the other 3rd grade teacher to get her butt in there and take it all for herself! 

I left and broke down into tears.  WHAT IN THE WORLD HAD JUST HAPPENED?  I felt like I was on Survivor and had just been blindsided during a Tribal Council meeting!  Was Jeff Probst (host of Survivor) going to show up and officially take away my fire?

I went to lunch since I didn't feel like going home, and the word began to spread.  I wasn't the only stunned person.  And then I started to get mad....very mad.  Admin knew weeks ago that they weren't going to re-hire me.  Why didn't they talk to me sooner?  I could've been looking for work WEEKS ago while there were still teaching jobs open for the next year.

S SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN IN THAT MEETING....PERIOD.  I think she was there because she didn't like me and in case I decided to ask questions or get upset she would probably have butt in.  S is not an official part of administration.  Her presence there was to intimidate me, which it ALWAYS has.

I just keep thinking about what I did that made them feel that I wasn't the right fit for their school.  Like I mentioned earlier, all of my academic coach reviews had been fantastic, no one from Admin ever came to talk to me, nothing.  And this school is so big on wanting their teachers and students to succeed.  What a bunch of garbage.  They failed with me BIG TIME.  I wasn't given the opportunity to know that my job was in jeopardy, so how could I have fixed anything?  It also now made sense why there was an extra person at our district meeting; the new lady was going to take my place.  How nice of them.

And if being fired wasn't bad enough, salt was then poured on the wound.  I had called the HR department back to ask about my final check and insurance (yep, I'm no longer insured) when I was asked if I would like the Director (who wasn't the person to officially fire me) to write me a letter of recommendation.  Huh?  Sure, why not.

Then I got the letter.  Here are parts of it:

"I am delighted to write a letter of recommendation for Wendy Toale.  We have been pleased with her job performance and consider her a capable teacher and contributor to our school.........
"Wendy is an excellent classroom manager as well.  her students understand the clear expectations she outlines, and they rise to meet them.  Positive reinforcement is also used in her classroom, and its effect is that her classroom is one where learning is always taking place....
"I consider her an excellent candidate for employment."

Is your jaw hitting the floor the way mine still does when I read this?  It's a great letter, but if you liked me so much, WHY DID YOU JUST FIRE ME?!?  Is it just me, or does this seem like a very hypocritical letter?

This has really shaken me up.  I have lost all confidence in what I spent the past 12 years of my life working so hard to accomplish.  And I've even began doubting if I really want to do this.  Somedays I feel like the guy on the left, other days the guy on the right.

I know that everything happens for a reason, but come on!  The more I thought about it the more I realized that it's OK that I don't work there anymore.  This charter school is a lot of talk, and not a lot of action.  The biggest bummer is that Brandon was going to attend Kindergarten there in the fall, and I wouldn't have to pay daycare anymore because it's full day Kindergarten there.  Well, now we'll have to pay some sort of daycare again.  Oh well.

Needless to say, my summer has sucked.  I have no motivation to exercise and loose weight, and now I'm once again on the hunt for a job.  I'm considering just subbing again.  A LOT LESS STRESS, and work.  I won't have insurance, or get paid through the summer, but I can leave the crap at the school at the end of the day.

I'm also considering writing the Director a nicely written letter about how they could've handled the situation better.  I don't mind being's the way I was fired that chops my hide and makes me want to throw up.

Oh well, what do the Beatles say:   Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, life goes on!

I get by with a little help from my friends!


Not a Beatles song, but still fun!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tests, Needles, & Scooters: It's Been a Long Week!

So, it's been a busy week for Brandon.  Monday he went to school with me for his Kindergarten Assessment tests.  He tested into a "fast track" reading program, which means he's farther ahead than most Kindergarten students.  He also tested into a math class that some of my 3rd graders were in!!  That was very exciting news to hear.

I discovered that to register him for Kindergarten, I needed to get him up to date with his shots.  I knew that he was a little behind, but was devastated to discover he was going to need FIVE shots.  Yikes, this wasn't going to be fun.  The last time he had shots was when he was an infant.  Sure, they scream, but they don't fight back very hard.

Yea, WHATEVER.  For the record, I don't think this picture is real.  I believe it is COMPLETELY staged.  No one is THIS happy when they are about to be poked with a long needle!

We were lucky enough to have two doctors "tag team" him, and two of the shots were combined into one, so he was only receiving four sticks with a needle.  He was doing great mentally until the doctors came back with the needles.  It was over then.  Thankfully my mom was with me.  Brandon sat at the edge of the "patient's bed" (what is that thing called?),  I held down his arms, mom held his chest up, the male nurse kept his legs down, while both he and the female nurse each poked him twice in each leg.  It was a little like this, only it was a five year old and required four people in the room!

Anyway, after that trauma we were looking forward to the birthday party for my niece on Saturday.  It was a fantastic water party, so Brandon was able to get very wet.

After the party Brandon was playing outside with some boys that were my nephews age....about 9 & 10.  They were using the water guns that had been used during the party.  One boy, we'll call him Bob, (just because) was getting another boy, we'll call Rob, wet, even though Rob was asking Bob to stop shooting him.  Bob just wouldn't stop.

All the adults were in the house when suddenly we hear Brandon scream, and run inside.  My mom got to him first.  Apparently Rob, tired of Bob getting him wet, became VERY upset, and to prove a point about how tired he was, he picked up the scooter he was riding on, and swung it around.   Yeah, he swung it straight into the left side of Brandon's head!!!  Needless to say, he had quite a gash on his head, and we were off to Urgent Care to have it taken care of.

When my mom told me that he was probably going to have staples put in, I became very nervous.  I've had stitches before, but never staples.   I didn't know how this process worked, and I kept thinking of this:

You know, the tool that is handy to have around whenever there is a psychopath in your house?  You just push this into their head and they usually die.....right?  It always works in the movies!

Anyway, I was very concerned.

Well, it wasn't that big a deal.  He was given gel that numbed the area, and then the doctor came back into the room with this:

I didn't watch the process, and luckily Brandon was nice and still for the doctor....well, more still than he was for the shots!  As dumb as this sounds, I was expecting to hear the sound of a stapler when they were put into his head!

So this:
Plus this:

Equals four staples to the left side of his head.

He took it like a champ, and we went back to my sister's house where he continued to play!  If this is what having a boy is going to be like, I'd better toughen up and prepare!

On a side note, I got my hair cut yesterday.  I chopped it all off.  I don't take pictures very often, so here you go.  I'm still loosing weight, and I'm thrilled that school is out, I can really get going again!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Liberty Hill To The Rescue

This has been a CRAZY week! 

A few weeks ago we began looking for a new place to live.  We knew we wanted to live in a townhouse, and get out of apartment living.  After living in this HORRIBLE complex for over a year, we're tired of hearing every footstep, toilet flush, shower, party, barking dog, and creek made by our horrible neighbors.  (and no, I'm not exaggerating at all.  As I write this, our neighbors are upstairs in their apartment and I know exactly where they are because we can hear their footsteps!)

We also want Brandon to be able to run and jump around like a 5 year old should be able to, without our neighbors complaining.  Oh, and being able to exercise WHENEVER I WANT TO without said neighbors knocking on my door to whine would be fantastic!  A townhouse would give us this, along with the feel of a house, without the big payment.

It all came together yesterday.  We wanted to stay in Sandy, but we found a townhouse community in Draper, the next city south.  The last time all the "chips" fell into place like this was when we moved to Utah.  The complex had a five month waiting list that was just lifted this week.  The exact townhouse I wanted was available, it's a smoke and pet free community, and to make it even sweeter, it's an end unit and the model home is next door, so WE WON'T HAVE ANY NEIGHBORS AT ALL!   

Welcome to our new townhouse!  I will have a kitchen pantry, (which I don't have now), an island with cabinets inside, (don't have one of those), a coat closet (also something I don't have now), IN UNIT, BRAND NEW LAUNDRY (which means we can sell ours and don't have to move it!), a linen closet (another thing I don't have now!), huge closets, AND A GARAGE!  (yep, I don't have that now either!)  I've never been big on cleaning bathrooms, but now that we'll have 2.5 of them, I'll have to get over it.

It's in a much higher elevation than where we live now, so it's much colder.  And it has a country feel to it, (which Nick loves) even with the other townhouses around it.  The video walkthrough is the model next door to us, and is the same layout as our new place.  We move the beginning of March, and I begin packing tomorrow!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Weight Loss Challenge 2; Week 3, 4, 5

Weight Loss Challenge

The first two weeks of my "new" challenge were wonderful.  I was motivated, excited, eating healthy.  I came home from work the second Friday, and after I exercised I instantly became very sick.  High fever, throat swollen, I couldn't talk, chills that lasted for hours;  yep, I caught Strep Throat.  For five days I was MISERABLE.  I couldn't talk, swallow, sleep, or eat unless it was something that was soft or made of ice.  To try and keep myself from putting weight on, I looked for healthier food.  Instead of buying ice cream bars, I found some really good Dreyer's fruit bars that had no sugar, were low on calories, and are simply divine!

Surprisingly, I lost almost three pounds during that 5 day stretch.  Week three was a bust in regards to exercising.  I simply wasn't healthy enough and I knew if I pushed it I would later regret it.

Well, that week off from exercising DID NOT HELP MY CAUSE.  Week four was a COMPLETE AND TOTAL BUST!  My motivation was gone, I wasn't eating healthy, I was worried.  I gained the three pounds back very quickly and decided to simply act like I'd never lost that weight to begin with!

At the end of week four I had still met my goal for the month of January.  I'm shooting for 5 pounds a month, and I'd lost six.  I was still bummed though because after being sick the idea of exercising wasn't appealing AT ALL.

Going into week 5 I knew I needed to do something drastic.  I was trying to find a way to get my motivation back.  I remembered a DVD I used all summer long, The Firm.  Before week 5 I'd been doing a 20 minute aerobics routine to work my way into using The Firm again.  I decided it was time to jump in with both feet.  I'm using the "express" 35 minute workout during the week, which combines circuit training with aerobics and burns A LOT more calories.

I started the DVD on Tuesday, and have lost 3.6 pounds this week!!!  My motivation has returned, and I am so excited about this.  I'm almost back at the weight I was when my first challenge ended.  I have 1.6 pounds until I'm back at that weight and then the skies the limit!!  I have about 30 pounds that I still really want to loose.  I'm finding that exercising right after I get home from work each night is best for me.  I get dinner ready, put it in the oven and exercise while it's cooking.

After I run all my Saturday errands, and clean the house, I'm going to do the entire "Firm" DVD, which is 55 minutes long.  Saturday is the only day I truly have time for it, and I'm actually excited to do it again.  My body doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart like it did earlier in the week when I first started 'The Firm", and it's to the point where my muscles are remembering again that I used to do this all the time!

Here's to week six;  I think it's going to be great!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Weight Loss Challenge 2....Week 1 & 2

Weight Loss Challenge

Well, in week one I started off needing to loose 11 pounds to get me back down to where I was when my first challenge ended.  Yikes!

I began doing the same things I did last time.  I figure they worked before, why not use the same tools again?

Week one was great.  Getting back into exercising wasn't easy, but I found that I still loved it.  I decided that instead of exercising after dinner, I tried exercising right when I got home from work; 5pm...20 minutes later I was done and my evening was over.

I was only shooting for about 1.5 pounds down.  I ended up loosing 3.6lbs!  I was excited and ready to move onto week two.

I weigh myself daily, but the day that "counts" for me is Friday morning.  Last Monday when I stepped on the scale, I about died....I had PUT ON A POUND!  What the heck?!  So I spent this week trying to loose that pound.  A little came off here, a little there, and then on Wednesday I had a great loss:  1.2lbs!  Finally.  Thursday a little came off and then this morning I almost fell off the scale:  2.2lbs down for a total of 6.8lbs in only two weeks!!

After exercising today, I now have a fever, sore throat, and a horrible case of the chills.  Fun, fun.  Oh, and I'm a little nauseous when I stand up!

Since I've set my weekly goal for between 1- 1.5lbs down, I'm way ahead.  I could very well hit the 10lb mark this month.  That would be awesome....but I'm not going to get all excited about it.

Have a great week everyone!