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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Day 41: Threatened with legal action over negative review

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 41: Threatened with legal action over negative review - Contena

Yesterday, at 9:48 p.m. I received an email from Kevin Fleming, founder of, threatening me with legal action regarding a blog post I wrote on March 6, 2017.

His email read as follows:


We have discovered an article that was written by you which contains false, defamatory statements made against Heroic, LLC d/b/a

The article is located at the following url:


If this content is not removed within (5) business days, we will will pursue all available legal remedies, including seeking monetary damages, injunctive relief, and an order that you pay court costs and attorney’s fees. 

Please reply in writing as soon as the defamatory content is removed to avoid further action. 

Thank you,

Kevin Fleming


Personally, I don’t know what Kevin gets so upset about because everything I wrote in my blog post was true.

Contena does charge a fee for writers to become members of the site. This fee can be paid in one lump sum, or prospective writers can make six payments of $99.

As a freelance writer, I belong to several writing sites and not one of them has ever charged me a fee. 

Registration usually involved listing personal details or personal details and a test article. Never did any of the sites ask for money.

See what other writers have to say about Contena.

Needless to say, when threatened with legal I took the blog post down. So much for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It would seem that one can only speak freely when positive things are being said.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Day 40: Getting your driver’s license

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 40: Getting your driver’s license

Ever since I became a teenager I wanted to drive a car and I couldn’t wait for my 18th birthday.

Dad promised that he would teach me to drive. As soon as I was legally allowed, I could take my place behind the wheel and he would take me on the road.
Unfortunately, two weeks before my 18th birthday my parents bought a new car and while dad was still willing to teach me to drive, I chickened out. I would have been fine driving the old car, but this brand new one … no, no way. Suppose something happened to it.

The years passed and I was already well into my twenties when my ex-husband suddenly decided that it was time I learned how to drive. One fine Sunday afternoon we got into the car, he drove to a secluded spot, got out of the driver’s seat and suggested that I take his place.

In my hands, the car hopped rather than drove and for the next twenty minutes the only words coming out of my ex’s mouth were “Give gas, give gas, give gas!”

Once I had the starting and stopping down it was time to actually drive and I tell ya … I was terrified. 

For my fifth driving lesson, I was to drive us to a friend’s house and this usually 20-minute trip took me 45 minutes to complete. I drove at a snail pace and every time a car approached, I thought I was going to hit it. 
Upon arrival, my shirt was soaked with sweat.

Everything changed when September came around and I had to drive my son to school. Instead of driving only on Sundays, I had to drive every day, twice a day and that made all the difference. Within a week I was a confident driver.

Next, it was time to take my driver’s exam. I got full marks for the theory test, but the practical exam left much to be desired. My driving was fine, my three-point turn was fine, but where it came to parallel parking I flunked.

I had to wait two months before I could take the exam again, and again I flunked. That parallel parking didn’t agree with me. After another two month wait, I went back, on my birthday as it happened, and the driving instructor recognized me. 

Once again the parallel parking was a disaster, but this time I put up a fight.
“You seem very nervous,” the instructor said.
“It’s because of you,” I told him. “When I’m alone in the car or with my husband, my parking is just fine, but now that I have to prove this to you, it just doesn’t work.”
“Alright,” he said. “I’m gonna go get a coffee, you keep practicing.”

So I did. I practiced parallel parking on the right side and the left side of the road and each time it went perfectly.

When the instructor came back he told me to drive straight to the office. 
“What about my parallel parking that you told me to practice?” I asked him. 
“I’ve seen enough,” he said. “I’ve been watching you from behind the window and you’re more than qualified to get your license.”

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Day 39: Coffee or tea?

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 39: Coffee or tea?

Some people can’t function in the morning before they’ve had their first cup of coffee or tea. They are irritable, grouchy and altogether not properly awake. While some shower and get themselves ready when getting out of bed, other head straight for the kitchen.

While I appreciate a good cup of coffee too, I’m not as bad as some. I can wait until I’m at work. I usually first switch my computer on, see if there’s anything urgent, and then make my way to the nearest coffee shop.

However, last week there was a snag in my usual routine. When I arrived at my favorite coffee shop, I was told that they were all out of decaf coffee. Oh no, now that was bad news. While I’m perfectly capable of going without coffee for a short period of time, having no coffee all day is nothing short of a disaster.

There was only one thing for it … look for another coffee shop. I got directed to one further down the street. So, I walked, and I walked, and I walked some more. I finally arrived at the said coffee shop, and while it is part of a large chain in Canada, the shop itself was relatively small and packed with customers.

I queued for no less than 20 minutes and hoped that they too wouldn’t be out of decaf or this whole ordeal would have been for nothing. Fortunately, they had plenty of decaf coffee to which I added a warm, crispy croissant.

By the time I got back to the office, the croissant was cold and my decaf coffee had noticeably cooled, but okay, it was better than nothing.

The following day it was cold and rainy and I didn’t feel like walking all the way to the far-away coffee shop, but I knew there was a new place up the street.

The coffee shop was unlike any other. Instead of being furnished with small tables, comfortable chairs and couches, this shop had four long wooden tables, surrounded by matching chairs. A young crowd was sitting side by side, working on their laptops or holding a tablet.

A glance at the sandwiches and pastries display cabinet told me this place wasn’t cheap. There was something about the foot-long sandwiches, holding ham, cheese or chicken in combination with lettuce and tomato that screamed, expensive! The fact that none of the goods held a price tag was also a dead giveaway that this place was for people with deep pockets. Just how deep I would have to reach into my pocket I was about to find out.

When I asked for a small decaf coffee and a croissant, the total came to $6,25.
“How much?” I asked because I thought I misheard.
“$6,25,” the girl repeated. “Would you like the receipt?”
“Yes,” I said. 

Usually, I’m not interested in a receipt, but this time I wanted to see how much the coffee and how the croissant cost. As it turned out the coffee was $3,75 and the croissant was $2.50. Good Lord, $3,75 for a small coffee! At my usual place, I get an extra-large coffee for that price. And $2,50 for a croissant, where did this croissant come from … France?
Needless to say, this coffee shop was for emergencies only.

It's really is beyond me why companies don’t stock more of decaf coffee or some avoid it altogether. At my workplace, they have no less than 10 different coffees, 12 different teas, hot chocolate and an espresso machine but no decaf coffee. Yet when decaf is available, it’s the first type of coffee that is depleted.

As for tea … I enjoy a cup of tea almost as much as a cup of coffee, but because I can only drink decaf tea, my choice is limited. I have to stick to fruity teas or if I can find it Earl Grey Decaf. So, all in all, is there a certain decaf discrimination?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 38: This makes me so angry

I’ve just about had enough of this ‘#metoo’ nonsense, a campaign started by Alyssa Milano to draw attention to sexual assault.

Apparently, numerous singers and actresses are joining her in this project, all Tweeting ‘#metoo’, as well as ordinary people typing ‘#metoo’ as their Facebook status.

Little do they know that numerous actors complained about Alyssa Milano, accusing her of sexually harassing them. This particular actor in a scene of ‘Charmed’ complained that she just about ‘ate his face’.

As for those singers and actresses joining her in her ‘#metoo’ project … take a look at them. If these women are the target of sexual harassment, are the men really to blame for taking a chance? All of them are clearly sending the message ... LOOK NO UNDERWEAR! If it was permitted, they would bloody well show up naked.

And speaking of naked ... why not Google 'Alyssa Milano naked' and see what comes up. And this is a woman who complains about sexual harassment! LOL

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Day 37: Origin by Dan Brown – no spoilers

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 37: Origin by Dan Brown – no spoilers

Are you reading Dan Brown’s latest book ‘Origin’ yet? I picked up the book at the beginning of the week and the story is gripping right from the start.

While Dan Brown does an excellent job describing the scene, my curiosity got the better of me and I Googled a few of the things he described. For instance, the monastery in Montserrat, the Guggenheim Museum in Barcelona, the various artworks, a particular bridge in Budapest, a cathedral in the middle of nowhere, etc.

Of course, when I read on the subway, I can’t Google anything so then I have to make use of Post-it notes and stick them to particular pages of interest so I can Google this or that at a later time.

But speaking of the subway, it really isn’t a good idea for me to read ‘Origin’ on the train. I get so engrossed in the story that last week Friday I missed my stop. The first time I looked up I noticed that the train had stopped at Christie.

‘Christie?’ I thought, ‘I don’t pass a station called Christie. Christie is one stop after Spadina. Good grief I missed my stop!!!’ I quickly scrambled to my feet and got off the train.

On the streetcar, I didn’t fare much better. Even though the various stops are displayed on LED screens and a mechanical voice calls out the various stops, while reading I’m blind and deaf.

At one point I looked up though and saw the CN Tower. ‘That’s strange,’ I thought, ‘I never see the CN Tower.’ I glanced up at the LED screens and saw ‘Wellington Street’. Good grief, Wellington Street!!! I was way too far! If the next stop was Wellington Street that meant I had passed Queen and King Street without even noticing.

Damn Dan Brown, that was twice that ‘Origin’ got me into trouble and it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. yet. And more trouble was just around the corner.

At lunchtime, I settled down on a comfortable couch in the company’s cafĂ© and prepared for an hour of quiet reading. After what seemed like only 20 minutes or half an hour, Dave – a colleague – appeared at my side.

“Conny, are you coming back to your desk?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said, “when lunchtime is over.”
“Lunchtime was over 15 minutes ago,” he informed me.
When I checked my phone I noticed that it was indeed 1:15. Damn not again!

With currently 509 reviews on Amazon to date, the opinion of readers vary. 59% give ‘Origin’ a 5-star review, 15% give the book 4 stars, 11% 3 stars, 8% 2 stars, and 7% 1 star.

It’s safe to say that ‘Origin’ will receive a 5-star review from me. Any book that gets me into trouble three times in one day is worth nothing short of a top review.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Day 36: Hopes and dreams

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts.

Day 36: Hopes and dreams
Did you ever think that your ship just came in, only to find out that it was a dinghy and it was leaking? I had such hopes and dreams yesterday.
Around 11:00 a.m. I went out to buy a cup of coffee and noticed a zippered wallet laying on the side of the road. An open wallet and it looked like it was stuffed with banknotes. The wallet was actually bulging to the point that the zipper couldn’t close.
I wanted to pick the wallet up of course, but I exercised restraint as I’ve seen enough YouTube videos of pranksters making ordinary people look like fools. So, a looked to the left, and I looked to right, scanned the people across the street and when all seemed okay, I ever so casually sashayed over to the wallet.
I stole a sideways glance at it and tried to determine what type of banknotes it held … 10-dollar bills? 20-dollar bills? Maybe an even higher denomination? Whatever the value, I already had visions of a healthy addition to my savings account. The way the wallet was bulging there could have been between $2,000 or $5,000 or even more.
Once again, I looked to my left, to my right and across the street. When I felt sure that no eyes were on me, I bend to pick up the wallet. And oh, the disappointment. There was no money in the wallet, only a deck of playing cards. So off I went to buy my coffee with some lose change I had in my pocket and then it was back to work.
Speaking of finding money though … many years ago, my mom and I were shopping for school supplies when she noticed a bag in a telephone booth. She retrieved the bag and looked inside if there was a wallet. She found not one, but three wallets, all stuffed with cash. The wallets belonged to a certain Helena Vermeer. There was also an address and a telephone number.
Once home, mom took the money out of each of the wallets and counted it. One wallet held 3,000 franks (the setting is Belgium), the second wallet held 1,350 franks, and the third wallet held no less than 7,220 franks, altogether 11,570 franks. A considerable amount back in those days.
Mom called the given phone number and asked to speak to Helena Vermeer.
“Helena Vermeer is my mother,” a woman said. “Or shall I say, was my mother, she died two weeks ago.”

We were all stunned into silence. It was highly unlikely that a dead woman took her bag with her to go shopping.
To cut a long story short, the daughter had taken her mom’s bag and in her state of grief (or whatever) forgot the bag in the telephone booth.
She agreed to come over to pick up the bag and once she had arrived had the audacity to ask if all the money was still there. “I know exactly how much was in each of those wallets,” she stated. Then she snatched the bag off the table, asked if that was all, got up and left.
“Next time when I find something,” mom said. “I’m keeping it.”
She got her chance less than a month later. Mom, dad, my brother and myself had taken a trip to Brussels to shop for clothes. A friend’s wedding was coming up and we all needed a new outfit, a dress for mom and me, a new suit for dad and my brother.
We visited several stores in the city, but none had what mom was looking for.
“What are you looking for?” dad asked, slightly exasperated as we left the fifth store.
“I don’t know,” she said, “but I’ll know it when I see it.”
And she saw it alright. When we passed a particular store, she pointed to a dress on one of the window mannequins. The dress was expensive though. So expensive that dad peered at mom over his glasses with a look that said ... are you serious?
“I hope they’re not closed,” mom said, glancing at her wristwatch. “It’s after six already.” When she reached for the door, she found that the door was slightly open and when pushed a silver bell tinkled overhead.
Right away we all knew that something was wrong. Not only was there no staff behind the counter, and were there no customers browsing the merchandise, all the lights were off.
Mom, never one to give up easily, proceeded to call out. “Hello! Hello! Anybody here?!” Nobody answered.
“Just my luck,” she stated. “I finally find the dress I want, and now there’s nobody here.”
“We can come back next weekend,” dad suggested.
“No way,” mom said. “With my luck, that dress could be sold between now and then.”
Dad reasoned that the store probably had more than one of those dresses, but mom was having none of it.
“So what do you want to do?” dad asked. “We can hardly stay here for the night.”
“There’s only one thing to do,” she said.
To our surprise she legged it to the mannequin, deftly removed the dress, folded it and placed it on the counter along with her name, her phone number and the request to call her.
The phone rang shortly after nine o’clock on Monday morning. From what we could hear, mom had a short conversation and then smiling put the phone down.
“That was the store,” she informed us. “The manager promised to keep the dress for me. We go back next weekend to pick it up.”
As soon as we walked through the door of the store the next Saturday morning, it was as if the manager (a lively Italian chap) recognized us. He came from behind the counter, asked if we were indeed the XXX family and shook hands with us as if we were long lost friends. The other customers in the store eyes us with interest.
Mam was shown to a luxurious dressing room to try on the dress that she had left on the counter the previous week and not only did it fit like a glove, she looked fabulous in it.
“And now for the rest of the family,” the manager said, waving at a nearby hovering salesman, who approached my dad and brother. Dad protested that we were only shopping for a dress, but the man waved his objections away. He happily chatted, in a way only Italians can, that my dad and brother must try on some of his suits.
As for me, I was whisked away by yet another sales person to look at party dresses.
It all went so fast, we hardly knew what was happening, but an hour later we were all kitted out in outfits that would raise more than one eyebrow. I had already raised my eyebrows when I saw the price of my dress. To say that it was expensive was putting it (very) mildly. Add to that mam’s dress, dad’s suit and my brother’s suit … the total would be astronomical!
Much to our surprise though, the dresses and the suits were boxed, bagged and handed to us without a stop at the cash register.
“We haven’t paid yet,” mom reminded the manager.
“My dear signora,” the man said. “I couldn’t possible charge you for your purchases. Everything is on the house and you will notice that I have supplied you and the young signorina with suitable handbags.”
Seeing how stunned we were, the manager went on “You could have walked out with anything you wanted last Saturday. But not only were so honest to leave the dress behind, but you closed the door so nobody else could walk in. Such honesty has to be rewarded.”
We left elated and happy that some people still appreciate honesty.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Day 35: Work experiences

My Writing Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 35: Work experiences 

Where it comes to working experiences, I can entertain you with a string of anecdotes. In the early years as an immigrant in South Africa, it was nearly impossible to get a full-time job, but there was plenty of temporary work.

My very first temp assignment was for an industrial bakery. The bookkeeper wanted some time off and I was sent by a temp agency to stand in for her. One of my responsibilities was to calculate the worker’s wages with the Kalamazoo system.

The office, my co-workers and the work itself were all nice enough, but what really stood out were the perks of this job. 
Every morning at 9:00 the office was served freshly brewed coffee, along with a tray of thickly sliced, warm bread. The tray also held a bowl of real butter, as well as peach, apricot and strawberry jam.

At 11:00 more coffee, this time accompanied by a variety of scones, muffins, and cinnamon rolls.
Between 12:00 and 1:00 employees were served sandwiches with a choice of ham, salami, pate, cheese, or one of five salads.
At 3:00 coffee again, this time with a selection of pastries.
At 4:30, the official end of the day, every employee got a free bread.
I was more than a little sorry when after three weeks the bookkeeper returned to the office and my assignment was over.

A few month later, I was sent to a company where – before I was even allowed to enter the premises – I was called into the security office and was asked to take the oath of secrecy. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was soon to find out. 

This particular company built military equipment and my job was to type instruction manuals for the soldiers on how to make minor repairs. 
According to the oath, I was not allowed to discuss my work with anyone outside my department and certainly with nobody outside the company. I was to keep this oath for the duration of my stay and 7 years after I left the company. 
The biggest shock was when I came face to face with a tank. I had seen tanks in the movies and on TV of course, but that didn’t prepare me for seeing one in real life. Not only did I feel dwarfed by this enormous machine but I just about peed my pants when I saw its 9-meter (32 feet) gun pointed straight at me. I was teased mercilessly when I returned to the office as white as a sheet.

Life as a temp isn’t all fun and games though. Here in Toronto, I was sent to one of the big law firms for a three- week assignment. Very uncharacteristic of me, I left after just one hour. 

I knew the assignment wasn’t going to work when I arrived at the office and was shown to the desk of the girl I would be standing in for. 
Clearly, she loved spiders as there were spiders everywhere. She had several 8,5 x 11 colorful pictures of spiders pinned to the walls of her cubicle, two black and orange tarantulas were dangling from the ceiling, where a huge plastic (but very lifelike) black tarantula sat next to her computer.

Looking at the setup, I could feel a chill creeping up my spine, while the hairs on my neck and arms were standing up. 

I was supposed to work here! Me, whose terrified of spiders was supposed to work on a keyboard not 3 inches away from long black spider legs!

I tried to be brave and cautiously, from afar, placed a couple of Kleenex tissues over the black monster next to the keyboard, but it was no use, I knew what was under those tissues and even though I knew the spider wasn’t real, it still gave me the creeps. 

I informed the agency and left. As it turned out, three temps before me had done the very same thing.

In yet another law firm the environment was perfect, but the lawyer was a monster. He had a string of do’s and don’ts that included:
His printing had to be picked up every 20 minutes.
His teabag had to soak in hot water for precisely 45 seconds. Not 44 seconds, not 46 seconds, but 45 seconds.
His mail was to be presented to him in alphabetical order.
Cheques had to be stamped at an angle of exactly 45 degrees.
No work was ever to be visible on my desk.
This, of all things, presented the biggest problem. How does one do paperwork without any papers showing?
If these demands weren’t enough, the lawyer was terrible abusive in language. He screamed and shouted insults at the slightest provocation. If chairs weren’t replaced at exactly the right angle around the boardroom table, he would scream at his people for half an hour or more, getting angrier by the minute. If there were only 5 bottles of water instead of 6, this would set him off too.
When I suggested keeping bottled water in the fridge and only placing the bottles in the boardroom shortly before the meeting, I was on the receiving end of his wrath. To me, this made perfect sense as nobody wants to drink lukewarm water, but apparently, the lawyer didn’t tolerate suggestions.
When he came storming from behind his desk, ready to strike me, I got out a there. Verbal abuse was one thing, but I wasn’t risking physical abuse.
In hindsight, I should have let him. If he had struck me I would have had proof of the abuse. As it was, when I filed a complaint against the lawyer and the first thing the lawyer I contacted asked was “Do you have proof?” 

According to the lawyer, he’d seen this all before and a complaint without proof didn’t stand a chance in court.

Later I learned that he did contact the abusive lawyer who promptly denied everything.

I often played with the idea of putting together an anthology of work experience stories. Do you think this would be a good idea?