Sweet! – Stories of discovering what you love

It took me over 40 years to find out why my mom became a missionary. She was a Baha’i, not Christian, and Baha’i’s call what she did “pioneering.” In 1964, she left Hollywood and an acting career, and moved to Alaska to bring the Baha’i Faith to whoever would listen. I came along later and accompanied her by plane, boat, train and car on her religious mission throughout the state.

Even as a kid, I felt there was something a little nutty about this. Why were we flying all over bothering people? It felt worse than going door to door in the neighborhood selling my Cub Scout raffle tickets. The raffle tickets only cost a dollar and there were no afterlife implications if you didn’t have the winning number.

My mother, though, was selling religion. The stakes were higher both spiritually and emotionally. My mother was driven to bring people to her faith no matter how much it embarrassed her family. We knocked on doors, hosted fireside chats, stood behind card tables filled with pamphlets at conventions, we did it all. But during that time I never had the courage to ask her why. What could possibly drive a person to give up everything she worked for and move to a place like Alaska? It would have been easier for me to understand if she’d gone up to work saloons during a gold rush than to be a missionary.

Unfortunately, my mom died when I was 17 and I never found out what caused her to move to the frozen north. I have DVDs of her in sitcoms from that time. She seemed successful. I still have her portfolio she used to send out to agents. She was striking. I remember going with her one day to a big house in Beverly Hills to see an old friend who was a regular on Charlie’s Angels and wondering, “Why did you leave all this?”

My mother’s love of the Baha’i Faith was a mystery to me until last year when an old family friend sent me a book on Baha’i’s in Alaska that included a short chapter on my mother. Right there on page 148 the mystery was finally solved. A quick email to my cousin Bernie added another important layer.

My mom grew up Jewish in Brooklyn and every year during Passover Seder her father would tell her to run to the door to let in the prophet Elijah. (Technically, this would happen while the rest of the family recited verses where they asked God to, according to chabad.org, “visit His wrath upon their persecutors and oppressors.” I kinda like that part.) Every year, according to the story my mother told the author of this book, Elijah had someplace better to go and my mother would be very disappointed.

I can totally see my mom at eight years old being very disappointed in Elijah. Once, when we were living in Anchorage, she threw a pot roast out the window because someone didn’t show up for dinner. It didn’t matter to my mom if you were a prophet or a dinner guest. If you said you were going to show up you better show up.

Then, one night in 1964, a friend of hers was introduced to the Baha’i Faith. Later that night, around midnight, that friend knocked on my mother’s door in Beverly Hills and told her about his conversion. My mother said it felt like Elijah had finally come to her door. After 25 years of Elijah-less Seders my mom had finally found God. Immediately after I read that I wrote my cousin Bernie and asked if he’d heard that story. He said no but when I asked him why he thought his aunt would just run off to Alaska he said, “Well, she was always getting a wild hair about something.”

So there it was. For 17 years, we flew all over Alaska in bush planes because Elijah, in the form of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Baha’i Faith, came to my mother’s door. And also because she was prone to wild hairs.

Finding this out was so comforting me to that I resolved to go back into my own life and figure out why I love the people and things that I do. It’s been a humbling, fascinating experience. I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with standup comedy (on a camping trip with my Boy Scout troop). I can tell you why I fell in love with certain women (this story is too long already for all that.) I can tell you why I fell in love with reading and writing (I was desperately looking for a way out of the life I was in as a kid). And I can tell you why I love unexpectedly washing dishes at people’s houses (t reminds me of my dad but don’t get excited, I don’t do it for everyone). I can even tell you why it’s still comforting to write stories sitting on the floor in the bathroom with the lights off and the shower on (it was the only room in the house with a lock on the door where I could get away from people screaming at each other. The sound of the shower would drown out everything going on the hallway six inches away. Now that I think of it, I could probably find an app for that and save on the water bill.)

I’ve been going to therapy for a long time and done a lot of work figuring out why I hate certain things about myself and others but until now I never tried to figure out why I love things. Crazy, huh? Figuring out why we love the things we love might even more important than finding out why we hate the things we hate, right?

Whether you agree with that or not, that’s the kind of story we’re looking for at our next show, June 22, at Roy Street Coffee and Tea. The theme is “Sweet! – Stories of discovering what you love.”

Do you remember when you realized you loved music? Or baseball? Or your first sweetheart? Did you fall in love with swimming when you went over Niagara Falls in a barrel with your dad? Did you fall in love with Judo because your mother taught you how to throw your brother in the back yard? Maybe you fell in love with the law from watching Matlock! Please, God, let there be someone at the show who became a lawyer because of Andy Griffith.

Remember to keep it clean and under 8 minutes. Here are the rules and guidelines for telling a story at the show:

https://freshgroundstories.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/

Practice out loud in the car or in the living room on the cat. Let me know if you have any questions.

I hope to see you on the 22nd.

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

Thank you :)

Thanks to everyone who came out Thursday and helped make it such a great night. I say all the time that FGS is the best night of the month for me but last Thursday was something special.

Bill started off the evening with a hilarious story of trying to buy a new car but not wanting the salesman to know that one of his requirements is that it’s big enough to sleep in. I was happy to find out that I’m not the only one who buys cars based on that metric. If you’ve ever had to live in your car it’s always in the back of your mind that you might have to do it again one day. I’m pretty sure that no one driving a Mini Cooper has ever been homeless.

Dan, a first-timer, followed that with a story that went straight into my heart. He told us the story of his 25-year marriage ending and the first kiss a year later that gave him hope that maybe one day he could find love again. I know what it’s like to feel like you’ll never be kissed again. It’s the worst feeling in the world. I wish I could go back and tell every woman who kissed me after years of loneliness and tell them how much it meant to me.

I was very happy I pulled Stephanie’s name out of Mr. Coffee because she got bumped last month and I hate having to look at someone when they give me the “two times in a row?” face. Stephanie has an interesting hobby of getting a tattoo for each adventure she’s been in around the world. Next time I see her at FGS I’m checking her arms for new ink to see if she’s telling a story that night.

Colby told a touching story of having to give up his career as a healer and it reminded me of all the people who have helped me heal through various techniques. I can’t imagine what it would be like for them if they lost that ability. When I listened to the story again I heard something I missed the first time. He also talked about how sometimes we give up one thing in order to get something else and how different that is from losing something and getting nothing in return. That’s a situation I rarely hear spiritual people talking about and now it’s something that I’m going to be thinking about for a while. Thank you Colby.

We had so many great tellers last night I feel like I’m letting you down by not telling you about all of them. Unfortunately, I only have so much time to get this email out and you only have so much time to spend reading it. I wish I could tell you about Janet falling out of a raft in Zambia and instead of being eaten by crocodiles she was rescued by the the most handsome man in Africa. And I’d love to talk more about how Eric grew up with the coolest dad in the world who played air guitar in the living room and still sends his son classic rock mix tapes. Unfortunately, all I have time to say is that if you weren’t there that night you missed a great show.

One teller I want to take time to thank personally is a woman I’d never seen before. I don’t know if she wants her name out there so I’ll just call her C. I happened to standing next to Mr. Coffee when C put her name in and I could tell she was having a rough night. Her eyes were red and puffy and she hesitated before writing her name down. We talked for a moment and she told me a little bit about the story she wanted to tell. I told her I didn’t know a safer place to tell that story in public than where she was.

The story she told was how the year she didn’t make the usual call to her little brother to wish him a happy Thanksgiving. She found out later that it was the night she lost him to suicide. Even though her story was heartbreaking for me to hear I was grateful she chose us to share it with. I don’t know another group of people, who are mostly strangers to each other, who could receive that story with the grace and compassion that you guys did. Thank you for supporting C and all the other tellers over the years who have told these difficult stories. And thank you C for having the courage to tell it. It made a difference to me and I know it did for others.

I wish I could name everyone who told that night but I don’t have my notes with me and I don’t want to forget anyone. As always, special thanks to the first-timers, though, many of whom had never been onstage before. You guys always amaze me.

The audio levels on the recording were a little low but still worth keeping. It just means you’ll have to either turn up the volume or wear headphones. I’m still trying to get this audio stuff dialed in. Send me an email if you told a story that night and I’ll send you the audio of your performance. I only send audio to the people who told a story and it’s only of the story they told. A lot of the stories were hear at FGS are pretty personal so I don’t send them out to anyone but the teller.

Our next show in June 22 and the theme is “Stories of Discovering What You Love.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

One last thing before I go. I forgot to mention at Roy St. that Transportationchoices.org is hosting a storytelling show and they’re looking for people with public transit stories. If you have a 3-5 minute story about something memorable that happened to you on the bus or other form of public transit they’d love to hear it. I’m not sure if you should just show up at the event or if you need to contact them beforehand so email Rachel Logo at rachel@transportationchoices.org for details.

I pasted the text of her email below:

“I wanted to reach about a program we have coming up that I thought might be of interest to you and your audience. This June we are celebrating public transportation, with our annual Ride Transit Month program, which includes prizes, fun events, and more! On June 15th we are presenting a special live storytelling event that highlights the unique way that transit connects to people, places and community. We are looking for riders of all kinds to share a short 3-5 minute story of a moment they have had on transit.

I’d love to make sure there’s the opportunity for all voices to be included in this event, and would appreciate any help connecting with voices and stories that don’t always get heard.

Transit Talks – Moments in Motion

https://www.facebook.com/events/202917646892106/

Date: June 15th, 6pm

Location: Jewelbox Theater

Reserve your spot

https://transportationchoices.secure.force.com/donations/CnP_PaaS_EVT__ExternalRegistrationPage?event_id=a28A0000001IcX4IAK

To celebrate Ride Transit Month this June we are bringing you a very special version of our quarterly Transit Talks: Moments in Motion. This live storytelling event will feature a collection of stories about connections, told by riders of all kinds, about a moment they’ve had on transit.

A conversation with a stranger, an unexpected reunion, a date. It can all happen when we step out of our bubbles and onto transit.

These true stories will highlight the unique ways that public transportation connects us to people, places, and community.”

That’s all I got, though I suppose it’s enough given the length of this email. I hope you’re all out enjoying the weather. Remember the sunblock! We live in the PNW and are defenseless against the sun.

Paul

freshgroundstories@gmail.com

See you this Thursday!

I hope to see you at our next show coming up on Thursday.
 
Here are a couple of stories from last month’s show to whet your appetite 🙂
 
One from our regular, Lauren:
 
and another from first-timer, Sam:
 
The theme of the night was “Never in a million years”

Got any family mysteries laying around?

Hi Guys,

I was just contacted by one of the producers of a new podcast called, “Family Ghosts.” He’s looking for true stories from families that have been haunted, in a way, by something that happened to their family in the past. Below is the text I copied directly from Sam’s email:

______________________________________

Here’s a quick breakdown of the Family Ghosts project:

Each episode will feature someone investigating the truth behind a person whose legacy has haunted their family for generations – an aunt who vanished without a trace, a father who turned out to have a secret family, a cousin who absconded with the family fortune, etc. In each episode, we’ll hear the dinner-table version of these stories that’ve been making the rounds for years – and then we’ll dig into what actually happened, potentially altering the narrator’s perception of themselves and where they come from.

I’m looking for stories that can hold a listener’s attention for about 30-45 minutes – so naturally these will have to be stories with high stakes, rich characters, lots of history, and difficult questions at the center. Most importantly, I’m interested in what’s important to the storyteller about getting to the bottom of this mystery – what effect they think it might have on their life, and why. If you want to get a feel for it, the pilot episode is available from iTunes, or you can stream it here: https://megaphone.link/PPY1805389984.

___________________________________

This sounds like a really cool project and I hope some of you send Sam a brief summary of a story from your family that might fit the podcast. Send all your pitches to: familyghosts@panoply.fm. Use the same address for any questions you have.

I actually pitched my own family mystery to him earlier today and I’m curious to see what he and his team think of it. I’ll let you know what happens.

Leave a comment here on our page if you do send one in. I’d love to know how many stories he gets from FGS people 🙂

Paul

FGS storytellers doing good things.

Hi Guys,

Some more special storytelling events just popped up and I want to pass on the info to anyone who’d like to attend.

The first is a storytelling fundraiser for NAMI that’s produced by one our own FGS tellers, Bill Bernat. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and even though we aren’t partnered with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) we do get a lot of stories at our show that focus on recovering from mental health issues. NAMI is one of the organizations working to make it ok to talk about this stuff more openly so I try to do anything I can to help them.

Naturally, I’m super happy NAMI asked Bill to help them with their first Seattle storytelling show and I’m honored that he asked me and another FGS teller, Jenny Heddin, to perform at this show along with the NAMI tellers. Below is an email straight from Bill with more info.

___________________

Hello,

In celebration of mental health month (May), Seattle’s Great Wheel will be lit green for three days leading up to the NAMI WA premier event: Mental Health Stories: The Brainpower Chronicles.

I have held a series of workshops with six amazing storytellers selected by NAMI. The tellers have been working extremely hard to prepare–it will be a riveting show with a strong message of recovery and hope. I’ll be hosting.

The show is May 20th at 7pm at the beautiful Taproot Theater in Greenwood (Seattle). You can get more information here:

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Seattle-Great-Wheel-Going-Green-for-Mental-Health-Month.html?soid=1119340035877&aid=xucg-VPaqFc

Because it is a fundraiser, pricing is between $50 and $100. For those who would like to attend but would have difficulty at those prices, please call or write NAMI at 206-783-4288 or office@namiwa.org and they will work with you to make it doable.

If this interests you, I look forward to seeing you there!

Cheers,
-billb
Bill Bernat

___________________________

If you can’t make it to the NAMI show there are two other places to hear some great personal stories in the next couple of weeks.

This Friday, “Something to Tell,” Tacoma’s only storytelling open mic will start at 7pm at the B Sharp Cafe.

Big Tim, who you might have heard tell at FGS, just started running it and he’d love to see some folks from Seattle come down and tell a story. I’ll be there this week along with anyone I can get from Olympia to come with me.

Something To Tell

Tacoma, WA
29 Members

Tacoma’s only open mic storytelling show where people tell true stories about their lives based on the theme of the night. We hold it the third Friday of each month from 7-9pm…

Next Meetup

“I never really thought it would play out that way. …”

Friday, May 19, 2017, 7:00 PM
2 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Also, on the 26th, Folklife is happening and I think it’ll be the first time they’ll be doing personal storytelling like the kind you here at FGS and The Moth. David Schumer, FGS’s official doctor, will be telling a story about The World’s Most Hateful Llama. That may not be the actual title but that’s how I always remember it.

Tantalizing Tales Showcase

http://sched.co/AbUF
Fri. May. 26th
8:00 PM – 8:25 PM
Folklife Café

That’s all the news from the Seattle storytelling world. If I hear about anything else I’ll just put in on our Facebook page so you can just check there once in a while.

Paul