FGS: What was I thinking?? – Stories that made you shake your head

I haven’t done a count yet but I’m pretty sure every bad decision I’ve made ended up with me on the couch muttering, “What was I thinking??” I’m not encouraging anyone to go out and make some bad choices but if you’ve made a few in the past that led to a great story we’d love to hear it.

Did you stay in a relationship because you were afraid to be on your own? Did you take a job you hated because you thought it was the responsible thing to do? Maybe you stole a car once to impress your friends. Did you drop out of school to wander through Thailand only to discover what you were searching for was a block away from your home in Greenlake?

Come tell a story about a time you did something and only later realized why you did it. Did you regret it? Or are you glad you did it regardless of how it turned out? 

Remember to practice out loud on as many people as possible and time yourself when you’re doing it. All stories have to be under 8 minutes. Stories also have to be pretty clean in both language and content. The rest of the rules and guidelines are below:

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

Workshops are a great way to get feedback on a story you’re working on. Here are two I highly recommend:

Stay Awesome Storytelling Virtual Workshop

Seattle, WA
117 Members

It’s a virtual storytelling workshop with The Moth Radio storyteller and TED speaker Bill Bernat and Nutritious Truth’s Melody Owen.Bring a story about 5 minutes or, tell it,…

Next Meetup

Stay Awesome Storytelling Zoom Workshop

Monday, Nov 30, 2020, 7:00 PM
5 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

FGS – Storytelling Workshop

Seattle, WA
631 Storytellers

This workshop helps you become a better storyteller and to prepare to tell stories at events like Fresh Ground Stories or The Moth.The workshop is free.A diverse group of pe…

Next Meetup

December ONLINE Storytelling Workshop

Sunday, Dec 6, 2020, 1:00 PM
13 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Both are free and run by experienced tellers who have told many times at FGS. I’m also available to help on stories. Send me an email and we set up a call.

Email me through Meetup or at freshgroundstories@gmail.com as soon as possible if you want to get on the list to tell a story.

I’ll send out a Zoom registration link to everyone in the Meetup group the day before each show. Feel free to RSVP on Meetup if you want the automatic reminders but I’ll be sending the Zoom link to everyone in the group regardless of your RSVP.

We only have 100 spots in each show (98 actually since me and my assistant each take one spot) so the first 98 people to register for the show will be the only ones who can attend. 

Write if you have any questions 🙂

See you on the 17th!

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

Thank you!

Big thanks to everyone who came out to the show Thursday. You were just what I needed. I hope everyone heard at least one story they’re still thinking about. One of my favorite parts of FGS in the Before Times is talking about the stories on the way home with whoever’s with me in the car. Sadly, the drive home is a little shorter now. There’s not nearly enough time to talk about the stories between the computer and the couch. Plus, I’m the only one here so that makes it kind of awkward. 

If anyone was wondering what happened to my assistant Kris over the last few months you found out that night when she told us that she’s been dealing with Hashimoto’s Thyroidism. It’s an autoimmune disease that does what autoimmune diseases do – they make you miserable and frustrated because no one knows what’s wrong with you. Luckily, Kris was able to figure out what was going on herself and her doctor confirmed it. The best part is that if you have to get an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s is the one to get. It’s the only one you can put into remission by diet and lifestyle changes. Finally some good news in 2020!

(Ironically, the portable word processor I’m writing this on often randomly starts typing in Japanese so I may have just spelled Hashimoto’s Disease in its native kanji. Don’t ask me why I keep using this thing. I guess I get a kick out of suddenly writing in another language.)

Another story I’m still thinking about one Jen told about a stoic grandmother who gave her a gift she very much needed after a car accident. It was a haunting story that took its time getting to where it needed to be. It’s only the second story Jen’s told with us but she told it perfectly. There’s a scene in it where 9-year-old Jen is sitting at the counter of Murphy’s Five-and-Dime smashing a Matchbox car into her milkshake glass over and over again. She doesn’t explain why she’s doing it but we all somehow understood it. Thank you for that beautiful story, Jen.

Behnaz also had a story about a tiny gift that meant a lot. It was a little charm her aunt gave her that she lost immediately but still remembers years later. Her aunt gave her that charm because she knew it would be different from all the other presents Behnaz received that day and she wanted her to feel special. I hope one day Behnaz can share this story with her aunt so she knows how much that gesture meant to her. We all need an aunt like that in our lives.

Chris, one of our regular tellers, told a story about her new relationship with Marie Kondo. Thank you, Chris, for making me see folding t-shirts in a new light. A few weeks ago Chris mentioned to me that she was trying to downsize. I love it when something a friend says to me in conversation becomes a story. It makes me feel like I was there in the beginning of something special, like seeing Van Halen play a high school dance in 1974. 

Marte shared a story about riddles and poker faces that reminded me how often we forget that our parents had childhoods too. Weird, right? It took me decades to even begin trying to figure out my parents through the lens of their childhoods and not my own. I wish I had asked my parents more about what their lives were like growing up. It would have saved me a lot of grief knowing that sometimes the things they said and did had nothing to do with me. I know how much time Marte spend working on her story. I hope she knows how great it turned out. One of the nice things about storytelling is that we get to learn a little bit more about each other with every new story. I’ve only known Marte for a couple months but I already feel like I’m getting to know her and her family. I like that. In a world where we never talk to our physical neighbors, I’m glad we have a place to share bits of our lives with our storytelling neighbors. 

Yael told a beautiful story about introducing kids to art. I wish I had been one of those kids. How often do we get to experience not just someone’s passion for art but their commitment to introducing it to people in a way that will inspire them? Knowing how to share your art is an art too. It’s rare to find someone who is good at something and also good at explaining that something. Yael is one of those rare ones 🙂

I’m starting to think that all of Tracey’s stories have a moment in them where she silently thinks, “This can’t be happening.” We’re lucky to be blessed with a teller like Tracey who can turn tragedy into comedy. Who else could get a laugh out of a line like, “My doctor pronounced me barren”? When you can laugh at the worst times of your life it means those memories don’t control you anymore. That’s one of the reasons I tell stories, to prove to myself that I can slip out of any handcuffs my past tries to put on me. In my stories, I’m always Houdini. Thank you, Tracey, for showing us how you do that. And congratulations on the twins!

Bob Krulish, the only first-timer that night, told a hilarious story about trying to get to a psychiatrist one day to settle a bet with his therapist over whether he was bipolar. I asked Bob to share one of his stories after reading his memoir, “When Screams Turn to Whispers.” I was touched by how he was able to find joy after so much pain. If you’re curious how he was able to do that you can get his book at https://bobkrulish.com/book/. No, he didn’t ask me for a plug. I’m doing it because stories like his deserve to be heard. 

The only teller I haven’t mentioned so far is my son. If you were there that night to hear this story you probably understand why I don’t know what to say right now. It’s hard to see your kid talk about things you can’t fix. The hardest thing about being a parent is letting your kid feel their feelings. Years ago I had to share a story with Taran before I told it publicly. He needed to hear it first before anyone else did. I remember telling him then that this is how we get through stuff. We put our experiences into stories to make ourselves decide what the ending is going to be. When you put a memory into a story it takes it out of your body and into the world where it doesn’t hurt as much. It’s how we turn something bad into something beautiful.

As hard as it was to hear that story, I’m proud of him for telling it. Thanks for being the kind of audience where any one of us can get up and tell a story like that and know they aren’t alone. Thanks also for all the sweet comments I found later in the chat room. I sent them to him tonight. I always get choked up when I see how kind everyone is to our tellers. I don’t get to talk to every teller after the show but I know those comments mean a lot to them. 

Next month’s show is on Dec 17. The theme is “What was I thinking?” I’ll get the invite out as soon as possible. If you were one of the tellers last Thursday, let me know if you want an audio copy of your story. 

See you next month 🙂

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

FGS: Gifts – Stories of getting what you need

Last week I told a new story about a present I received 20 years ago and how telling the story of that present has been a gift in itself. Right now seems to be a good time to share stories about a time when we got something that was just what we needed. It could be about a physical thing you received or it could be about something that happened at just the right time and in retrospect seems like a pretty great gift. 

Email me through Meetup or at freshgroundstories@gmail.com as soon as possible if you want to get on the list to tell a story.

Remember to practice out loud on as many people as possible and time yourself when you’re doing it. All stories have to be under 8 minutes. The rest of the rules and guidelines for telling are below:

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

Workshops are a great way to get feedback on a story you’re working on. Here are two I highly recommend:

Stay Awesome Storytelling Virtual Workshop

Seattle, WA
107 Members

It’s a virtual storytelling workshop with The Moth Radio storyteller and TED speaker Bill Bernat and Nutritious Truth’s Melody Owen.Bring a story about 5 minutes or, tell it,…

Next Meetup

Stay Awesome Storytelling Zoom Workshop

Monday, Oct 26, 2020, 7:00 PM
4 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

FGS – Storytelling Workshop

Seattle, WA
620 Storytellers

This workshop helps you become a better storyteller and to prepare to tell stories at events like Fresh Ground Stories or The Moth.The workshop is free.A diverse group of pe…

Next Meetup

November ONLINE Storytelling Workshop

Sunday, Nov 1, 2020, 1:00 PM
16 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Both are free and run by experienced tellers who have told many times at FGS.

I’ll send out a Zoom registration link to everyone in the Meetup group the day before each show. Feel free to RSVP on Meetup if you want the automatic reminders but I’ll be sending the Zoom link to everyone in the group regardless of your RSVP.

We only have 100 spots in each show (98 actually since me and my assistant each take one spot) so the first 98 people to register for the show will be the only ones who can attend. If you want to tell a story, email me ASAP so I can send you the registration link before I send it to everyone else. 

Write if you have any questions 🙂

See you on the 19th!

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who came out last Thursday for the show. It was great to see so many first-timers telling! We also had our first major technical glitch too as my son got dropped from the call just as I was introducing him. Next time I’ll have him drive over and sip off the WiFi in the driveway to make sure he stays online. On the other hand, I did notice my blood pressure go down a bit when I realized he’d gotten bumped off. Was it the universe telling me I needed to have more time to prepare for his story? Possibly. All I know is that the family secrets are safe for one more month. 

We started off with Melody, a first-timer from Canada who told a story about how she stopped believing she was a failure. Halfway through her story, I started smiling as I realized she was telling us about winning Teacher of the Year and at the same time telling us she felt like an imposter. I feel the same way, Melody. I could win a Pulitzer Prize and still feel like I’m fooling everyone. Melody talked about how important it is to write your own story and not let anyone else write it for you. I’m glad she wrote this story. It was the perfect way to begin the night.

Next was Zoe who told us the story of her middle name. It was a story that took 50 years to unfold and I’m glad we finally got to hear it. What’s even more amazing is that three years ago one of my good friends took one look at Zoe and said, “That’s not her real name. She’s not a Zoe.” I said, “What do you mean that’s not her real name? You don’t even know her.” He said, “Listen, I know a Zoe when I see one. That ain’t no Zoe.”

Now I have to call Mark and tell him he was kinda-sorta right. Zoe’s first name is Wendy and her middle name is Zoe. But how did he know?!?! Does she walk like a Wendy? Does she dress like a Wendy? Here’s another thing we learned from Zoe’s story. New York City has a Department of Mental Hygiene. I can only assume everyone there has been laid off since 1975.

Next up was Susie, another first-timer who came to us from Southern California. It was a beautiful story of a woman searching for her birth mother after growing up in a family she didn’t have much in common with. I wish Susie could have told this story in person because there was a moment about five minutes in where I know the audience would have gasped and then burst out laughing. I can still picture Susie’s mom getting that phone call, running over to turn down the TV, and then hearing a voice on the phone say, “I’m your baby.” 

Thank you Susie for that wonderful story. Many of us stayed online after the show was over to get more details. That’s the part I miss the most about our regular shows. Some of the best moments of FGS have been standing around afterward meeting and talking to the folks show shared stories that night. One day we’ll be doing that again. My future goal is to figure out how to keep all the cool new people we’ve met from around the country stay involved with FGS once we go back to our Starbucks.

After Susie, we had another first-timer, Emily who gave us a peek into the inner life of a school teacher during COVID. I’ve seen a lot of news stories about what it’s like for parents to deal with kids learning from home but I haven’t seen many teachers talk about what it’s like for them. It wasn’t until Emily’s story that I thought about what it must be like to have to manage 20 different browser tabs while talking to a screen full of black squares. Is it acceptable to send donuts or pizza to teachers during COVID? Can Uber Eats deliver wine? It seems like a lot of teachers might need a weekly wine delivery from parents right now. I sense a business opportunity here. Someone get on this! 

Behnaz shared a story of what it was like trying to get a visa to come to America from Iran to go to college here. Just as I was starting to wonder why she was so adamant about going to college in America she said that there are only three ways you can leave your parents’ house in Iran. You can go to college. You can get married. Or you can die. So now in my mind, I see that visa as a combination of Willy Wonka golden ticket and a stay of execution. I’m glad you made it out Behnaz. Welcome to America where millions of people are going to college, getting married, and still living with their parents 🙂

Our final teller was Katie. She told the story of going back to her childhood home in Michigan to collect the artwork she’d stored in her parent’s house as an undergraduate in college. So much of what Katie said in that story resonated with me. 

How much is your art a part of who you are? Does it matter if you draw, paint, sing or dance if no one remembers you when you’re gone? If you’re any kind of artist you’re going to do what you do whether anyone sees it or not. We do it because it hurts too much not to. Katie said toward the end of her story, “My artwork is an expression of my deep gratitude for being alive.” This is what I Iove about storytelling and FGS. We get to share what it feels like to be alive in the moment that we’re telling and the moment we’re telling about. This is why it’s so important to have a supportive audience like we always get. Just like Katie has to stand in front of an easel with a paintbrush, the people who walk up to the microphone at FGS are there because they have to be. Thank you all for showing up every month and giving us a place to share our stories.

Katie worked on that story in a class taught by Unexpected Productions. If you want to learn how to share stories that resonate with a room full of strangers, I can’t recommend a better place to start. Their next class starts Jan 10 and runs through Feb 21. I’ve enjoyed every story I’ve ever heard that came out of this class. I don’t know what they’re doing over there but it’s working. This is a free plug for them. I’m not getting anything in return except the knowledge that next March I’m going to hear some great stories. 

One last plug for a worthy show. Melissa Reaves from Story Fruition is hosting the second Melanin Stories Matter show on Oct 24. The headliner that night is one of my all-time favorite tellers. His name is Ray Christian and it’s a crime you don’t already know him. He’s been on The Moth many times and runs his own podcast called What’s Ray Sayin’. Google him. Find him on all the stages and podcasts he’s been on over the years. The guy is amazing. I would have been tuning in to Melissa’s show whether I knew any of the tellers or not but knowing Ray will be there makes it extra special.

https://melaninstoriesmatter.com/

That’s all for now. Thanks to everyone who read this far 🙂

Our next show is November 19. The theme is “Gifts – Stories of getting what you need.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

It looks like the Zoom recording turned out ok so let me know if you told a story last Thursday and you’d like the audio recording of your performance. I don’t have permission to share stories with anyone except the person who told them so this is only available to the folks who told a story and would like a copy of it.

See you next month!

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

See you this Thursday!

Hi All,

Before I get to the reminder for this week’s show, I want to thank everyone who donated to the GoFundMe campaign to help me get a new computer. Thanks to Tracey, one of our regulars, it was completely unexpected. She knows me well enough to know I’d never ask for help so she did it on the sly. Thank you, Tracey. I was at the point of asking friends to borrow their computer once a month so I’d have a machine that could handle a Zoom show.

FGS will always be free to everyone because I think we need a place to share stories without wondering if someone’s making money off them. Luckily, there are other people who feel the same way. Dave, who runs the monthly FGS storytelling workshop, doesn’t make a penny off it. Bill, who runs the weekly Stay Awesome storytelling workshop, doesn’t charge either. And I’m always willing to help people with their stories over the phone for free as well. 

I happily support anyone who does want to make money from storytelling because running a show is never free, and talent deserves to be paid. But for me, it’s always been about making friends and helping people figure themselves out through storytelling. So support shows and tellers with money when you can, and FGS will always be here for you’re living in Medina or in your car at the Park & Ride in Lacey like I was when I was telling stories in bars.

Thanks again for the ability to get a computer made in this decade. I’m finally able to record the shows again so I can give any teller a copy of their story if they want it. I’ve been doing that for years and it was hard not being able to do it on our Zoom shows. 

Here’s the official reminder that our next show is coming up this Thursday. We have a bunch of new people telling stories and that’s always exciting for me. Also, my son is going to tell a story. If you’ve ever been to one of our live shows you know how nervous that makes me. I never know what he’s going to say and I think he secretly likes seeing me sweat. So if you want to see a nervous dad, tune in on Thursday 🙂

I’ll be sending out the Zoom registration link Wednesday afternoon to everyone in the Meetup group. Let me know If you don’t get that email by 5 pm so I can send you the link personally. 

Here’s a little storytelling inspiration to get you through till Thursday. It looks like it’s from one of the Moth’s school shows. I wish something like The Moth’s story education program had existed when I was a kid. That really would have saved me.

 BTW – If anyone knows where Mrs. Knutson is who taught 12th grade English at West Anchorage High in 1984 would you tell her I turned out ok?

Hope to see a bunch of you this Thursday 🙂

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com