FGS: Last Straws – Stories of Standing up for yourself

One of the things I love about FGS is that I get to meet people who have done things I wish I’d done. It’s not usually the big things that impress me. I already know I’m never going to climb Everest or sail around the world in a renovated hot tub. It’s the day-to-day things that make me lean forward in my chair and listen.

I have a feeling we’re surrounded by some pretty brave people and we don’t even know it. I’m willing to bet next month’s show that we have people in our audience who have stood up to bullies, bosses, spouses, neighbors, angry dogs, maybe even some rabid squirrels. A couple years ago, a friend of mine stood up to a coworker and ended up getting fired. I thought she was crazy at the time, but now she says it’s the best thing she ever did for herself. She runs her own business now and seems happier than ever. 

When I was doing comedy, I took every gig I could because I needed the money. It didn’t matter if it took me 14 hours to get to a gig on the other side of Montana. If it paid enough to justify the gas I took it. I think I ended up doing a lot of damage to myself accepting work that killed my spirit as they paid the rent. I remember the first time I ever walked out on a gig and to this day it’s one of my proudest moments.

One New Year’s Eve in the mid-2000s, I was hired to headline a jazz club in Tacoma. I got there at 7:30 for the show that was supposed to start at 8:00. By 11:30, the show still hadn’t started so the owner asked me to just walk up and down the buffet line telling jokes to tired diners as they scooped up green beans and buffalo wings. I finally snapped and told him that I wasn’t going to run around like a demented maitre’d trying to find something funny to say about pudding. Plus, there was a guy in a chef’s hat at the end of the buffet slicing prime rib. I was pretty sure someone was going to end up grabbing that knife and stabbing me with it. So I told him to keep his $100 and drove home.

That tiny moment of standing up for myself will stay with me for the rest of my life. It doesn’t just remind me of how good I felt in that moment. It also reminds me of all the times I had the chance to stand up for myself and didn’t. How much did sacrificing my dignity and self-esteem cost me all those years? I’ll never know. But I do know that when the choice comes up these days, I often look back at that night in Tacoma and say, “I did it once and I can do it again.”

That’s the kind of story we’d like you to bring to the next FGS. Tell us about a time when you stood up for yourself. What led up to it and how did it play out? Were you terrified or too angry to notice? Did you burn a bridge or did the people around you find new respect for you? Do you ever look back and wonder how you did it?

Remember to keep it clean, and practice out loud as often as you can. All stories must be under 8 minutes. It can be as short as you want but not over 8 minutes. We’re getting more names in Mr. Coffee and some folks aren’t getting to share their story because we run out of time. Thanks for understanding.

Here are the rules and guidelines for telling: https://freshgroundstories.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/

If you’d like help with your story, our next free monthly workshop is Feb 2. It’s run by two of our regular tellers who volunteer their time. You can RSVP here: https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories-Storytelling-Workshop/

I hope to see you all February 20 at 7 pm at the Olive Way Starbucks

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

Thank you

Thank you all so much to everyone who came out last Thursday to the show. We had lots of first-timers and a supportive audience. It always makes my heart dance to see a first-time teller nervously walk up to the mic and by the end of their story they hear cheers and applause from the crowd. 

Naturally, I’ve lost half the slips of paper with names on them so I’m writing this from memory. Two stories that really made me smile were from Linda and Abhishek. Linda was the Scone of Courage recipient this month for being the first first-timer up. She told a perfect story for starting the show about throwing her mother out of a hot-air balloon. Is anything ever as funny as throwing your mom’s ashes out of a balloon as you float over this majestic land of ours? No, I don’t think there is. The best part was that she had to do it after being explicitly told to never throw anything out of the balloon. The main lesson we learned is that if you break the rules you’ll probably come home with a story.

If you’re wondering where Linda learned how to tell such a well-crafted story, I will tell you that she learned it here: https://unexpectedproductions.org/classes/, We’ve had a number of new tellers come out of the improv and storytelling classes there. I don’t get a kickback from recommending this place, I just know whatever they’re teaching people there works.

Abhishek, is another graduate from one of our local improv/storytelling classes – https://seattleimprovclasses.com/. He told a wonderful story about trying out for the Math Olympiad and struggling with the temptation to cheat on the test. Personally, I think you should be allowed to cheat on any test that gives you three hours to solve five problems. If there was ever a test made for cheating this was it.

One story I’m definitely going to post on our Facebook page and blog site is the story Kris told about the time she tried to tell a story at FGS without practicing it. I know it’s a big temptation to wing it when you walk onstage but after 10 years of watching people do that I can tell you it almost never turns out well. Kris was so embarrassed after the first and only time she tried to wing it that she didn’t come back for four years. None of us knew where she went or why she stayed away until last Thursday when she told us the real reason she didn’t come back. Thank you, Kris, for your honestly up there that night. It took a lot of courage to admit the real reason you stayed away so long. Since she’s come back, she’s told a number of amazing stories. One of the reasons they were so good is because she practiced on friends and family a bunch of times until each story was as good as she could get it. 

Speaking of practicing and getting good feedback, two of our regular tellers hold a free monthly workshop for anyone working on a story. We’ve had lots of good stories come out of this workshop and I always look forward to hearing people who have attended one: https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories-Storytelling-Workshop/

We did have a full Mr. Coffee carafe at the last show and I had to bump at least three people (Gabrielle, Carl, and Taran.) There might have been one more but I don’t have all the slips. If you didn’t get to tell last night, go ahead and email me and I’ll get you on a future show. You can tell the story you prepared for last Thursday if you want. 

Two more things before I let you go. One, our next show is February, 20. The theme is, “Standing up for yourself.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

Secondly, we had two FGS tellers featured on KNKX’s Sound Effect podcast this weekend. Sound Effect is a really cool podcast that features stories from the PNW. They’ve interviewed a lot folks who have told at FGS and it’s always exciting when I hear familiar voices on the radio. Thank you Gabriel Spitzer, Jennifer Wing, Kevin Kniestedt, and all the other producers who have put FGS stories on the air.

Here are two from Saturday’s show
https://www.knkx.org/post/self-proclaimed-former-couch-potato-takes-4-month-solo-hike-shifts-how-he-sees-world

https://www.knkx.org/post/unlikely-roommates-win-trust-over-time-become-genuine-friends

That’s all for now. Look for next month’s invite next week in your inbox 🙂

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

See you tonight!

The weather is warming up and the roads are looking good. I hope a bunch of you can join me at the show tonight 🙂

Here’s the theme: https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories/events/267465221/

And the rules for telling if you’re throwing your name in Mr. Coffee: https://freshgroundstories.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/

Write if you have any questions.

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

FGS: Failing – Stories from the ashes

Sometimes for fun, I like to list all my failures to remind myself that I’m tougher than I think I am. I’m not sure this is a therapist-approved activity but it does seem to work. Inevitably, I end up laughing about something and sharing it later with friends.

A few days ago my son reminded me how important it is to share those stories for more than just laughs. He asked me over dinner if I ever felt overwhelmed. I knew he was really asking if it was ok for him to feel overwhelmed. I was happy to admit that I feel overwhelmed at least twice a week and sometimes every day for months at a time. I think he was genuinely surprised at how often I felt that way. I could see that by admitting this it changed his perception of me a little bit. Hopefully, it changed his perception of himself too. 

It made me wish that more of us talked about the times we failed or didn’t measure up. I know intellectually that it’s ok to fail, but I don’t really believe it until someone stands right in front of me and tells me how bad they screwed something up. What would happen if we shared more stories about the times we fell flat on our faces? How would our perception of ourselves change if we knew about all the times the people around us failed? 

That’s the kind of story we’d like you to bring this month. Tell us about a time when you tried and failed. How did the experience change you? Did it change the way you treated others? Is it something you’ve never told anyone or something that you’ve been laughing about for years? The best stories are the ones you’re a little nervous about sharing. You don’t have to bring your darkest secret, but hopefully, it’ll be a story that means something to you. What a great night it would be if we could all go home feeling a little better about all the times we came up short.

Remember to keep it clean, and practice out loud on friends and family as often as you can. All stories must be under 8 minutes so time yourself when you practice. Stories can be as short as you want but not over 8 minutes. We’re getting more names in Mr. Coffee and some folks aren’t getting to share their story because we run out of time. Thanks for understanding.

Here are the rules and guidelines for telling: https://freshgroundstories.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/

If you’d like help with your story, our next free monthly workshop is January 5. It’s run by two of our regular tellers who volunteer their time. You can RSVP here: https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories-Storytelling-Workshop/

I hope to see you all January 16 at 7 pm at the Olive Way Starbucks 🙂

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

Thank you

Extra special heartfelt thanks to everyone who came out in the record-setting rainfall we had Thursday night. It was a perfect night to stay home and so many of you came out anyway. It took me two hours to get there from Olympia that night and I was ready to do a show with a handful of us sitting in front of the fireplace. Instead, almost 50 of you showed up at the last minute and made it a show. Thank you!

We had so many beautiful stories that night from beginning to end. Sue led us off with a story about the last days of her father’s life. One of my favorite things about storytelling is how we can find laughter in tragedy. Even though we could hear the sadness is Sue’s voice as she talked about her dad, she also blessed us with some really funny moments that made it a truly rich story. Thank you, Sue, for all the work you put in on that story.

Pykasu, one of our newer tellers, told a story that had so many lines that went right into my heart that I could feel myself rocking back into my chair trying to take them all in. There were two that I woke up this morning thinking about, “You don’t move on from loss, you move forward with it” and “loss is a monster that feeds on isolation.” The most amazing part of Pykasu’s story was she didn’t intend to tell that night. Thirty minutes before showtime there were seven people in the cafe and none of them were there for the show. Twenty minutes before showtime, Pykasu walked in and I asked her if she had any story about anything she’d be willing to tell. I figured the show was going to be me, her, and a few other people sitting on two couches trading stories. She graciously pulled a notebook out of her backpack and started working on something she’d been thinking about but hadn’t worked out yet. Thank you, Pykasu, for stepping up on such short notice. My advice for the rest of us? Add Pykasu to your Grammarly dictionary. You’ll be telling your friends about her one day.

Neal was our only first-timer that night. He told a touching story that had us all leaning forward in our chairs until the very end when the room exploded in laughter. I love stories that remind me of how ridiculous life can be sometimes. Sometimes we do something so unbelievably goofy that the only way we can deal with it is to share the story with someone. Thank you, Neal, for sharing that one with us.

Mike, a teller we haven’t seen in a while, shared the story of how he and his wife came back together after a year and a half of thinking they were done forever. So many of us have stories of leaving people who weren’t right for us, it’s good to hear a story about a couple who managed to work out their differences and stay together. Stories like that give me hope. Thank you, Mike. 

Colleen, one of our new regulars, shared the story of her mom protecting her from a house fire four months after she died. Was this a story about ghosts or the afterlife? No, it was a story about a mother’s love for her daughter. Would Neal deGrasse Tyson dispute the cause of Colleen’s photos and baptismal gown being the only things not destroyed in that fire? Yes. Does it matter? No. Faith is what gets us through the hard times. Sometimes, in spite of all the facts, we just have to believe that the universe is going to take care of us. 

That night we also had a rare appearance by Afifi. Afifi, who is Lebanese, told us the story of escaping from Tehran during the hostage crisis in 1979. I always look forward to Afifi’s stories. They come from places I’ll never see and a life I’ll never have. If you’re ever wondering if we’re living through a civil war in this country, I would ask you to sit down with Afifi and let her tell you what it’s like to live in the Middle East. Next time I get all worked up about the state of affairs in this country, I hope I can pause long enough to remember that I’ve never had to worry about my house being bombed, or had to talk my way onto the last plane out of Seattle to save myself from being shot. Thank you, Afifi, for the perspective you always bring to your stories.

Chris, one of our most regular regulars, told my new favorite Chris story. There’s something about the stories she tells about her parents that always resonates with me. That night, she had this amazing line, “We both knew it was a lie, but there was nothing he could do about it.” You don’t need to know anything about her story for that line to mean something to you. That one line says so much about how people interact with each other. Next time I see Chris I’m going to ask her if that line meant as much to her as it did to me.

Kris-with-a-K told a super sweet story about her parents which was almost the exact opposite of Chris-with-a-C’s. We got to meet Kris’s parents at an FGS show a few months ago and I can totally see why she turned out the way she did. It was wonderful seeing them smiling in the audience as their daughter told a story. There’s a lot of love in that family. If you want to know what that love looks like around the holidays you’ll have to talk Kris into telling that story again. If we’re lucky, she’ll let me post it online 🙂

Our last teller was Bill Bernat. Normally, I get nervous when someone tells a story about something that just happened. But Bill is an exceptional writer and teller and I knew it was going to be ok. His story of love and loss was one of the most touching I’ve ever heard him tell. He almost told it last month but neither he nor the story was ready. Last Thursday they were both ready. Storytelling allows us to make something beautiful out of something painful. Watching Bill do that after a recent heartbreak was inspiring. I’m grateful we have a place where we can do that.

I’m going to do something I don’t do very often. I’m going to ask you to visit Bill’s website, https://stayawesome.com/. He’s a speaker, coach, and storyteller. In all the years he’s been telling stories with us at FGS he’s never asked me to promote his business. Not once. He doesn’t come out to network or sell himself in any way. That’s why I’m deciding to tell everyone now what a great speaking coach he is. He really is one of the best. You know what would be a great gift for someone? Hire Bill to do a storytelling workshop for you and your friends. Is your workplace trying to figure out how to talk about mental health issues? Hire Bill to come show you how to do that. 

Here’s his TED talk that’s been seen 1.6 million times: 

 

That’s all I have for now. My apologies for all the electronic problems we’ve been having during the shows recently. The PA system and the audio recorders have been acting up lately. I’m doing my best to figure out what’s going on. Thanks for your patience. 

Our next show is January 16. The theme is “Failure – Stories from the ashes.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as possible. See you then!

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com