FGS – Risk: Stories of taking a chance

This month’s theme is “Risk: Stories of taking a chance.” It took me a long time in life to be ok with taking chances. I’m embarrassed to say that my fear of failure was greater than my desire for success. In fact, that sentence was so uncomfortable for me to write I just went back and changed it from present tense to past tense. So even now, after lots of practice taking risks, I still worry about how shaky my faith is that things will work out.

I don’t know where I first decided that any mistake was the end of the world but I know I lived with that belief for a long time. I felt anything could be taken away from me at any time and I was always a half-step away from something terrible happening. For decades I lived with the fear that I was going to lose my job, my home, my health, my kid, and just about anything else I cared about. You can imagine what I was like to live with. I could have been the Tony Robbins of demotivational speaking. Have you read my book, “It’s Never Going to Happen” or taken my 12-week course, “Bury Your Dreams: How to Stay Shackled in Life and Love”? What about my Amazon best-seller, “The Seven Habits of Highly Delusional People” or my children’s guide to life, “The Power of Not Now, Maybe Later: How to Just Kind of Survive Until You Die.” Of course not, because I didn’t write them. Writing them would imply hope and I am nothing if not true to my delusions.

Thankfully, I’m starting to move away from those beliefs. Or maybe I should say I’m recovering from those beliefs. I’m not going to go into any stories here about the chances I’ve taken over the last few years. I’ll save those for another time. But I am interested in hearing stories about risks you’ve taken. What did you do and how did it work out? Or maybe you didn’t take a risk once and you wish you had. How did that affect your life since?

Bring a true 8-minute-or-less story about taking a risk to our next show on August 24. We’d love to hear it. I’d love to hear it. I’ve been hunkered down for the past couple of months not risking too much, trying hard not to dream too much, just working on restoring my energy and faith enough to where I can start asking myself “what if” again. I haven’t asked around but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who’d like to hear a story about how you found the gumption to take a chance one time. Extra credit if you can work in the word gumption 🙂

Remember to keep it clean and practice your story out loud as much as possible. Here are the rules & guidelines to help you get started.


I hope to see you on August 24 at 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.


Thank you :)

Thank you everyone who came out last Thursday and supported all the people who got onstage. The stories we heard that night will stay within the walls of Roy St Coffee forever since I forgot the tape recorder. I feel bad that I can’t give any of the tellers a copy of their story but in a way it made the night feel a little mysterious, like we were all sharing secrets that we’ll never repeat.

Because I don’t have a recording I can’t pull any quotes for you but some of those stories were so memorable they’re still bouncing around in my head. Rebecca, a first-timer, told a heartbreaking story of driving her son to rehab. There are few things comparable to the helplessness you feel when your son or daughter is fighting addiction. There’s nothing you wouldn’t do for them and there’s nothing you can do for them. Except drive them to rehab.

Rich, one of our new regulars, told us how he ended up in Vietnam despite being against the war. It was unlike any other story I’ve heard about combat. It wasn’t a story about that particular war as much as it was about the inevitability of how young men and women end up in war. I can’t possibly recreate the poetry of Rich’s story here but I’ll remember this line for a long time, “The system works.” No matter how strong our will and firm our resolve, we still live within a system that can carry us away to places we don’t want to be.

One of the biggest surprises of the night was another first-timer, Min. Halfway through her story, I was kicking myself for not being able to record the show. Her story was about how her high, child-like voice has shaped her life. She had me from the first minute of her story when she admitted that she was on a first date with a young man in the audience who probably didn’t know that he was on a date. This is the best opening line I have ever heard! I saw her date afterward and I think he was still a little stunned. He was smiling but that could also be a symptom of delayed shock. I hope he appreciates how lucky he is. Min’s story was absolutely wonderful. Many people in Min’s life think her voice is something that needs to be fixed but she see’s it as her superpower. I’m solidly in Min’s camp on this one. It is a superpower and I’m glad we got to see her in action.

Lastly, I want to thank our special guest, Sam Blackman. Sam closed the show with the story that he won the Moth Grand Slam with last month. After that, he he shared a story from his early years as a young doctor. It was one of the most touching stories we’ve ever had at FGS and I wish everyone could have been there to hear it. I hope I never have to ask a doctor to do what a young woman asked Sam to do for her and her young daughter. But if I do, I hope that doctor is just like Sam.

Because I am perpetually disorganized, I’m sure I don’t have all the slips of paper with the tellers’ names. I want to thank each of you individually but I also don’t want to leave anyone out. So I’m just going to thank everyone who walked up to the mic that night and shared a story. I’m sorry we couldn’t get to everyone who threw their name in Mr. Coffee. I do my best to get as many people up there as possible. I hope the folks who got bumped can work their story into upcoming themes.

And speaking of upcoming themes, our next theme is Risk: Stories of taking a chance. I’ll get the invite out as soon as possible.

Take care everyone. Do what you can to stay cool this week. I’ll see you at our next show on August 24th 🙂


Two good shows coming up this week

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick email to let you know that there are two great shows coming up this week before our own show next week.

The first one is a new open mic storytelling show in Tacoma. I think it might be the only story show in Tacoma right now. It’s run by one of our regulars, Big Tim, and he’d love to see some Seattle people there if you can make it. It starts at 7pm.

Click below for details.

First Responders Night!!!

Wednesday, Jul 19, 2017, 7:00 PM

Black Kettle Bites and Brew
744 Market St. Unit 102B Tacoma, WA

3 Members Attending

First Responder night. Do you have a story about a Cop, Fireman, Medic, Dispatcher, Prosecutor or Corrections person? Do you know one that has a story to tell? This will be a night to be THANKFUL for those that watch over us every day. As a rule, stories are supposed to be about YOU, but for this show, we will break ALL the rules.

Check out this Meetup →

The second event is the annual Powellswood Storytelling Festival that runs all day Saturday. You can see some of the best storytellers in the world perform in this really cool hidden garden setting. I volunteer every year there so I can get in free. You’ll see personal storytelling like we do at FGS but also other types of stories you won’t see anywhere else.

Come down and hear some great stories while you watch me empty garbage cans!


Here’s the link to our own show that’s happening next week

Fresh Ground Stories: Before and After – Stories that divide your life

Thursday, Jul 27, 2017, 7:00 PM

Roy Street Coffee & Tea
700 Broadway East – Seattle, WA

43 Story Fans Attending

This month’s theme is something I’ve been thinking about for a while but wasn’t sure if it would resonate with anyone. The theme is “Before and After: Stories that divide your life.” At first I thought maybe it was a little too dramatic. Not everyone has a life-changing event that sharply divides the first part of your life from the second. But the…

Check out this Meetup →

I hope to see a bunch of you at Roy St on the 27th 🙂


Fresh Ground Stories: Before and After – Stories that divide your life

This month’s theme is something I’ve been thinking about for a while but wasn’t sure if it would resonate with anyone. The theme is “Before and After: Stories that divide your life.” At first I thought maybe it was a little too dramatic. Not everyone has a life-changing event that sharply divides the first part of your life from the second. But then I realized that we all have little things that happen to us where we can see that there was some sort of before and after effect.

The last couple of days I’ve been listing off all the things in my life that represent some kind of that-was-me-then and this-is-men-now. I just realized this week that it was 10 years ago since I joined Weight Watchers and started bringing my lunches to work. Every Sunday for 10 years I’ve cooked five days worth of lunches so I’m not tempted to eat a giant portion of something at a restaurant. Making lunches seems like a tiny little thing but when I think about it terms of a decade of healthy eating it makes me feel pretty good.

Naturally, I have some big before-and-after stories, my parents dying, my son being born, moving to Washington in ’95. But the little stories are the ones that I’m having the most fun thinking about this week.

In 2007, I was driving one of favorite comics to a gig when he told me the difference between telling a joke and being funny. That 30-minute conversation on SR 167 changed how I write and eventually led me to storytelling.

There was the time in the gym in 2009 when I did my first pull-up. For most of my life I’d been the weakest guy in the room. Ten push-ups was a struggle. If three of us had to move a couch I’d be the one holding the pillows while the other two moved the thing upstairs. But the day I did that first pull-up, man I felt like the baddest man in three counties. I was Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Grizzly Adams all rolled into one. I walked around town for the next two hours looking for a robbery to stop.

I remember a long time ago when I got an email out of the blue telling me that the NPR affiliate in Austin was going to play an audio story I made about my dad on Father’s Day. I had finished the story nine years earlier but no one in my family wanted to hear it. So it sat online for years collecting Google dust before someone halfway across the country heard it and decided it was good. For nine years I wondered why almost no one wanted to listen to it. When I sent it to Transom.org, the producer wrote back to say he had no idea what he was listening to. I had no idea what he meant by but I was pretty sure it meant he didn’t like it. But then, someone in a little studio in Austin found it and decided it was perfect for their Father’s Day show. They played it again the following year. And the year after that. I didn’t make any money from it but I’ve been living off the emotional residuals ever since. I learned that I’m not for everyone but I might be for someone. And that’s enough for me.

And that is the kind of story we’re looking for. The theme for July’s show is “Before and After: Stories that divide your life.” Bring a true, 8-minutes-or-less story about something that happened where you think of your life before and after that event. I know you have lots of those moments so pick one of them and figure out how to tell that story. Remember to keep it clean and practice out loud as often as possible.

Here are the rules and guidelines to help you along:


I hope to see you on July 27 at 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.


Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who took a break from the beautiful weather to hang out and listen to some beautiful stories last Thursday. There must have been something in the air that night because we ended right on time and everyone who came with a story got to tell.

David opened the show with a story he told at the Moth Grand Slam earlier in the week and once again I was reminded how important it is to have people in your life who push you to do the right thing. David’s career as  doctor took a big hit in the early years because he called out some doctors for doing unnecessary procedures on indigent patients. Integrity isn’t always the first word that comes to mind when I think of the medical industry but sometimes a guy like David shows up and shows me that there are still doctors out there who care. He may have paid for his integrity by not getting to work at the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins but his soul is intact so he’s probably better off in the long run.

One of our regulars, Chris, told a story of waking up under a blanket of snow and feeling, deeply and surprisingly, more alive than ever before. In the dispassionate fairness of nature she discovered she felt more connected and comforted than she did in her life back home. I found myself smiling as she told her story because a week earlier I had gotten lost hiking in Capitol Forest and was very put out with nature’s dispassionate unfairness of keeping me from finding the parking lot.

Our two first-timers stand out to me because they both told stories of helping others. Michael told a beautiful story of working as a reading tutor at a grade school even though he has no kids of his own. We all had a good laugh when he admitted how intimidating 8-year-old girls can be. Tammy told us about working with Syrian refugees and how much it changed her. What I keep going back to is how much Tammy and Michael made me think that maybe this world is in better hands than I thought it was. Apparently, when I pull myself away from Twitter and Facebook for a minute I can meet some pretty good people who give me hope for the future. Michael and Tammy don’t know this but long after I’ve forgotten the details of their stories I’m going to remember that I met two people that night who didn’t have to spend time helping others but did it anyway.

Another teller who made me smile was Moreah who told us how getting kicked out of the convent had led to a life of adventure that she almost missed out on. How have I gone all these years without realizing how much fun ex-nuns can be?? Next time someone invites me to a party I’m going to make sure there are some former nuns on the guest list before I say yes. I almost told Moreah afterward that I was planning on staying a few days at monastery in Oregon this summer but I didn’t want her to  slap me.

Before I get out of here, I want to thank another teller, TC, for a couple of things. The first is for sneaking Ryan’s name into Mr Coffee without telling her. Normally, I don’t condone this kind of scandalous behavior but we’ve both been hoping for years that Ryan will share a story with us and I was curious to see if we could nudge her into walking up to the microphone. We weren’t able to but the round of spontaneous applause that the audience gave her to show how safe she’ll be one day when she does get up there really touched me.

The second reason I want to thank TC is for the story he shared of traveling to the Shaolin temple because he loved watching David Carradine in Kung Fu when he was a kid. Guess what! I did too! I totally geeked out over his story of watching monks punching trees and doing two-finger pushups. After the show I got to talk to him about meditating and how much it’s meant to him. He didn’t know that I had just started meditating two weeks earlier and how happy I was to find someone who’d been doing it for years. Kismet! Synchronicity! Magical coincidences!

Everyone who got up that night helped make it a very special evening for me. I got to hear about Jonathan and the Happy-App-That-Never-Was. Ginger, who was thanked by strangers for being the best thing that ever happened to Port Angeles. Big Tim for sharing how much storytelling has helped him recover from PTSD. Dan for a story about the first love of his life which happened to be a ‘69 Volkswagen Beetle. I’m sure I’m forgetting some people but my notes are scattered around the apartment so I’m going to just have to send out a thanks to everyone who told a story that night.

Wait! One more thank you to Beverly for helping me with my allergies before the show. I was dying in the corner and she came to me with a cold, wet towel and a cup of ice water. You guys have no idea how close you came to the show being run by a blind, weeping emcee. Thank you B!

Most of you who have been coming to FGS for a while know that I don’t usually tell my own stories there. It’s more important to me that I give as many people as I can a chance to tell. I almost told a story Thursday but Ginger ended the night so perfectly I didn’t want to add anything afterward. But I would like to let you guys know that I was asked to tell a story at a show this Saturday called, “A Necessary Sadness.” It’s run by one of our regulars, and former Moth producer, Danielle K.L. Gregoire. Danielle does so much good work for storytelling in Seattle that I want to make sure everyone knows about her.

“A Necessary Sadness” is just one of the shows she runs and it’s different from anything else I’ve seen. It’s a show that’s hard to describe so click on the link below if you’d like more information. There will be storytelling, comedy, music, maybe some poems, who knows. Every performance is different. I loved the first version I saw last year and was happy to be invited to tell a story at this one. (If you went to the NAMI fundraiser last month you saw me tell the story I’ll be telling this Saturday).

The show is June 29 and July 1. I’ll be in the July 1 show but both shows will be really cool.

Our next FGS show is July 27. The theme is “Before and After.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can. In the meantime, you can check out the two events below that I want everyone to know about.

Every year my son and I go to the Powellswood Storytelling Festival. It’s one of the best story festivals in the PNW. I can’t recommend it enough. You get to see nationally known storytellers for only $20. These people are really, really good. Plus, if you go you’ll see me and my kid emptying garbage cans because that’s how we get in for free 🙂

Festival: Saturday July 22, 9 am to 5 p
Workshops: Friday July 21, 9 am to 4:30

Two of our regulars who moved to Portland last year are holding a storytelling workshop on July 23. I love these guys. If you want to learn how to tell stories better go to Anne and Norm’s workshop and tell them I said hi. Do your best to get them to move back to Seattle for me, ok?

A Storytelling Workshop with
Anne Rutherford and Norm Brecke
July 23 (Sun) 1:00-4:00 pm