Just Desserts

99 Word Fiction Challenge from Carrot Ranch.

Just Desserts

“Eh – What’s Up Doc?”

You could just hear the sarcasm dripping in his voice.

I had just lost a job I had been doing for over twenty years and was in no mood, but it made me laugh anyway.

I needed some humor to relieve the stress I was under. It’s tough getting downsized.

I smiled and said, “How about a piece of that carrot cake you got there?”

“No problem sir. I’ll get that right away. Need a drink with that?” he said.

“How about some ice cold milk?”

Somehow, I knew things were going to be ok.


The Right Price For You

All around us, we see what others have. We get jealous at times and maybe even envious of what others have that we don’t. Maybe we even force ourselves to get things that others have even if we can’t really afford them.

Brand New Car

The Car

It was about 15-16 years ago that I found myself divorced with a massive amount of debt and a car that barely ran. I had owned the car for at least 12 years and let’s just say that I was ready to beat it continuously with a sledgehammer to see how much damage I could do to it.

I lived about five miles from my work and every day, I would use one quart of oil and two gallons of water just to get back and forth a total of ten miles. I saw really nice cars that everyone drove at work and honestly, I was jealous and envious of what they had.

The sad part about it was there was nothing I could do about it. There was no money.

I tried though. I went to several banks and asked for a loan but no one would give me one. When I asked if I could use my car as collateral, they might as well have laughed out loud. No one was interested in using a 12-year old car to back a loan.

I was stuck.

The fan in the front of the car didn’t work either so it was dangerous to be stuck at stoplights because the car would overheat. If I got stuck at a light, I would pull into a parking lot and turn the car off instead. It made for very long trips to the grocery store.

I lived that way for 11-months before I was offered an opportunity to get a loan and purchase a used car from a private owner.

The House I Want


If we aren’t careful, we can end up in a scary situation when it comes to houses. All around us, there are new construction homes going up. Why would I want a used home when I could get a new home that no one has lived in? What if there aren’t many homes available to look at right now? I want something NOW!

As a REALTOR, I see all kinds of houses every week. Holding an open house for a new construction home is really nice. Everything in the house is perfect. Well, everything I can see looks perfect. Looking at used homes I can see how the house has been lived in. There are scrapes on the wall paint, worn carpet, and maybe the owner hasn’t fixed things along the way.

But that nice new home has none of these flaws so I want that one instead.

The Budget

When I went looking for another car to buy, I set a fixed amount that I would spend on it. Getting a loan when I was already carrying so much debt was scary in itself but I really felt there weren’t a lot of options. I set the price for $9000 and was fortunate enough to get something that lasted a while. Well, it lasted until one of my daughters had a wreck in it. Fortunately, I had it for several years and was able to pay down a bunch of debt in that time.

When it comes to a house, the budget needs to be seriously considered too. Just because you get a loan for a certain amount and the price you want for a home, any home, doesn’t mean the mortgage payment will never change. For the most part, you can expect the mortgage to go up a little each year. If you build that understanding in your calculations from the beginning, you can avoid having issues. I’ve written a post about things that change your mortgage. Read it when you get a chance but in the meantime, mortgages can go up due to variable interest rates, taxes and value assessments. If you’re not careful, you can actually be priced out of your home by these things.

It doesn’t mean you need to go through a foreclosure however, you may end up having to sell your home and humbling yourself by buying something less than what you had before so you can actually afford it.

Car Smash

Car Update

I kinda left you hanging there with the car. I did do something with that car that needed all the oil and water to keep going. I donated it to the senior high school class with the understanding that they would take a sledgehammer to it and destroy it. I wasn’t able to make the event but I hear they had a great time destroying the car.

I’ve moved on since then. It’s a memory that will stick with me but also one I never want to experience again.


If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for you or your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

Hidden Memory

March 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. Prompt from Carrot Ranch.


It’s been 74 years since that fateful day.

The day my ship I was on was shot out from under me.

So much death.

Most of my friends disappeared when that beauty of a ship fell beneath the waves. It’s hard being the last survivor.

Today, I saw on the news, some guy found the ship and wants to bring it back to the surface. “It’s a 9200-ton ship!” I thought. It’s been underwater so long it would probably rip apart if they tried to lift it.

Then they said how they were going to bring it up.



I read various blogs and came across a writing challenge. The challenge is to write a 99 word complete story based on a prompt. The site is called Carrot Ranch.

Here is my entry based on the prompt for Feb. 22: Unicorn. Entries are due by Feb. 27.

Real Unicorn

The large animal lumbered along slowly. It’s strides shaking the ground with each step.

I took aim and fired a shot. Missed.

He looked up, noticing the noise and spotted me.

His body turned to face me. Dipping his head, his single horn pointed directly at me.

A snort and he began a full-out run straight at me.

The ground shook under my feet. Dust flew everywhere.

Another shot, this time hitting the horn in the front of his head. It didn’t slow him down a bit.

I tried to reload but it was way too late.

Game over.


My First Speech – Again

I returned to Toastmasters International after more than a four-year break. I went to my first meeting at my new group about a two months ago and joined a little over three weeks ago. A week and a half ago, I gave my first speech upon returning.

toastmasters ice breaker speech

The Ice Breaker Speech

This is the first speech everyone gives at Toastmasters as a way to introduce themselves to the group. The speech is scheduled for 4-6 minutes. It is evaluated by another member of the group so that you can get an idea of your strengths and weaknesses in speaking.

The title of my Ice Breaker Speech was The Phone Call. I shared my personal experience of finding out the diagnosis of a brain tumor.

As much as I prepared for the speech, I stumbled while giving it.

The good news is that I believe I know why.



I prepared for the speech like many others do I suspect. I wrote the speech out in its entirety. I read it several times, edited it and practiced it. I then wrote an outline for the speech and began practicing based on the outline. I soon found that I was not happy with the outline because the clues I had written were not enough for me to remember. I went back to the manuscript and began practicing again. I felt I had enough of it in my mind by the time I went to give the speech.

Within the first paragraph, I had lost my place for what seemed like a full minute. Actually, it was more like five seconds but a lapse in memory while giving a speech can feel like an eternity.

I was able to get back on track and within another few lines. I was comfortable telling the rest of the story.

Speech Ribbon

The Result

I was the first of three speakers at the meeting that day. Along with the rest of the talks, there were also the regular duties and segments of the meeting.

I received two ribbons that day. The first was the “First Time” ribbon. This ribbon is awarded for the first speech you give to your group. The second was the “Best Speaker” ribbon. That was an awesome feeling even though I felt I still needed a lot of work.

Going Forward

While pondering what went wrong with my speech, I realized that I had focused so much on trying to remember every word that I wanted to say. I did that instead of focusing on the main themes for each point in the speech.

As a result, I am working on another speech on an entirely different topic. This time, however, I am going to focus on the main points throughout the speech. I already know the material so the topic is not hard. By focusing on what each section is about rather than focusing on what each word in each section is supposed to be, I feel that the message will not only come across as more authentic, but I will be relaxed as well.

It will probably be about six weeks before I give another speech but I will be using this method to prepare from now on.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for you or your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

Why Are You Letting Your House Sit On The Market?

It seems, at least for now, that the days when you would slap a sign in your yard and sell your house in 24 hours are ending. Things have changed in the market in North Texas. People are tired of overspending on a home when there are others nearby that will work just as well. Sometimes, even new construction homes will sit on the market because people don’t want to spend that much.

The Number One Reason Your House Doesn’t Sell

I see it often. A perfectly good house in a great neighborhood and it’s been on the market for half a year or more. Unfortunately, sometimes seller’s are just not realistic about the pricing of their homes. Even if you have the best Realtor in North Texas, you still won’t sell the home if the price is not in line with what is going on in your area.

It doesn’t matter if you put in a $100,000 pool with lights and an outdoor kitchen. If no one else in your neighborhood has a pool like that or an outdoor kitchen, it’s likely you won’t get near what you put into that pool or kitchen. People just won’t pay for it.

A decent Realtor will tell you where the house should be priced. Still there are those who insist that their house is better than everyone else’s home in the area.

An Honest Question

Market Bikes

Would you honestly pay more for something when there are other choices that will do the same thing for you? If you don’t race bicycles, would you pay $8000 for a bike when a $200 bike will do what you want it to do? I could ask the same thing about so many items we use every day.

When my grandson was born, my daughter insisted on buying Tommy Hilfiger clothes for him. When I asked her why, she said it was because she never got nice clothes growing up and she was not going to have her child be embarrassed by the clothes he wore. Ouch! When I tried to explain that he would be in those clothes for two months and they would never get worn out, it fell on deaf ears. There was no convincing her about the practical aspects of buying clothes for babies.

What About A House?

Market Similarity

I recently had a conversation with another agent in my office. He had a house listed on the market. It had been going slow and he was considering having a conversation with the owner about possibly lowering the price.

Just when he was about to do that, another house in the same neighborhood came on the market with an inflated price. Before he knew it, he received multiple offers on his listed house. Why? Because the houses were almost the same. People could look at both of them and soon realized that the house he was promoting was just as good as the other house.

Why would you spend extra money on a house when there is another one down the street for less?

Unless there are specific features or needs that one house has over the other, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.


If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

My Return To Toastmasters


It’s been a few years since I was in Toastmasters International. It is an organization that helps people come to terms with public speaking. They offer education and practice in front of a group, offering constructive feedback on your progress through a series of speeches.

Toaastmasters Logo

Why Did I Go In The First Place?

When I first started going to Toastmasters, I had been a corporate trainer for years. I had been in front of groups of people in a teaching environment. There was a need to take very complex concepts and make them understandable to people who had never used the technology before.

Although it was just a part of my job, I enjoyed it immensely. After a while, I became very comfortable teaching any subject to this group. The nervousness had gone away for the most part because these were people I had dealt with for years in the work environment.

I wanted more.

Something Was Very Wrong

One day, my boss invited me to go with him on a recruiting mission. My job was to present our “pitch” for getting new people to apply at the company. When I got up to speak in front of this “foreign” group, I stammered terribly. I was suddenly so nervous speaking that I barely got the words out.

Afterwards, my boss asked me what was wrong. I knew but I wasn’t about to tell him. I was nervous because I had been speaking in front of the same group of people for so long. I had not experienced speaking in front of groups I did not know and it was completely different. I knew I needed to improve. Enter Toastmasters

What I Accomplished

After about 18 months and two different clubs due to relocation, I achieved Competent Communicator status. I think the name has changed now to Competent Toastmaster Certification but it doesn’t matter. To get to that level, I needed to give ten speeches on different topics in front of people I didn’t really know. I even gave an evaluation at a competition and came in second place. It was kinda cool to accomplish those things.

It was during that time that I applied to teach at a Junior College in order to get in front of people I didn’t know on a regular basis. My Toastmaster training allowed me to take on that role without getting into a panic.

Shortly after that, I relocated again and fell out of Toastmasters.

Why I Returned

Due to medical conditions, I had to leave my employment. I returned to school, got a degree, but ultimately decided on Real Estate as my new career.

While I was in school, there were requirements to give speeches as assignments. Again, I could feel some nervousness getting in front of people. I pushed through it though and was very successful.

I realized, getting into Real Estate, that I would need to be comfortable talking to people I had just met with confidence and assurance. They needed to know that I knew what I was doing and could help them.

As part of my transition into this career, I had mentors through my office but wanted different mentors. I thought it would be beneficial to have mentors from other industries.

My “lead mentor,” the one I  would be sharing everything with and asking for specific feedback, suggested getting back into Toastmasters as a way of improving my communications skills.

I thought back to all the times I had given a speech at Toastmasters and the valuable feedback I had received. I knew that I could not only continue to improve my communications skills but could also focus more on my leadership skills. Together, it had the potential to change my effectiveness in my career and dealing with people I already knew.

So here I am, getting ready to give the first speech over again, just like the first time I attended Toastmasters. It’s the “get to know me” speech, The Ice Breaker Speech, so my new group can know my background. It’s the easiest talk since I already know the subject – me!

I will post occasionally on my progress and even include video when I get it.

What About You?

There are many reasons to join Toastmasters. There are probably more reasons not to go. However, if you want to improve your speaking ability in a variety of ways, give it a try.

See you at the next meeting or competition.


If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX