Big thanks to everyone who came out to our show last week. It was an amazing night, and the perfect way to say goodbye to Zoom and hello to the stage. Our next show will be April 21 and we’re going back to our old venue, the Starbucks on Olive Way. I can’t wait to see everyone in person again!

It’s going to be hard to leave behind all the wonderful out-of-state tellers we’ve met over the last two years. I’ll do my best to stream future shows but I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to do that with any consistency. Since April of 2020, we’ve had people from India, Germany, Australia, Canada, New York, Texas, California, Idaho, and probably a bunch of other places I can’t remember. There’s a little-known rule at FGS that anyone who crosses state or international borders to get to our show will absolutely get a chance to tell a story. So if you’re outside Washington state, and thinking of going on vacation, consider being in Seattle on the third Thursday of the month 🙂

Our first teller of the night was also one of our furthest tellers. Johanne from Montreal told a beautiful story that began with her father, who was a roofer, driving her around town saying “every roof has a story to tell.” One night, years after he had passed away, one of his old friends called the house to say goodbye as he was close to death himself. The way Johanne described what happened that night on the phone felt as haunting as it must have felt for her that night. Grief comes and goes and seems to rise up in the most unexpected ways. Somehow, the rhythm of Johanne’s voice brought back old memories of people I thought I was done grieving for years ago. Stories like this go deep. They dig up things we thought we had buried. In the hands of a skilled teller like Johanne, they help us move forward when we thought we had gone as far as we could go.

Our next teller was Bev, from just slightly closer to us in Albany, NY. She told a story about saying goodbye to her father for what she knew would be the last time. I cried at the end of her story that night and I cried again tonight when I listened to it again. Both times Bev brought me back to April 2002 in Bellingham, Washington, in a room in St, Joseph Hospital where I said goodbye to my own dad. Thank you, Bev, for reminding me that the length of our grief is measured in the love we have for those we’ve lost. 

Silvana was next with a story that was both thrilling and heartbreaking. There were parts of her story about growing up that I instantly connected with. When she got to the part where Girl Scouts was a way to channel her energy and connect with people who cared about her, I thought, “Yes! That’s what Boy Scouts was for me!” To hear a few minutes later how Girl Scouts was suddenly taken away from her was heartbreaking. I felt for that little girl even though I know the Silvana of today is happy and living a great life. It was one of those stories where you want to go back in time and make things right for someone. 

Gretchen then shared a story of living through the “Great Lesbian Baby Boom” when she was in a relationship where her partner wanted a baby and she didn’t. There’s a moment in the middle of the story where Gretchen and her girlfriend’s mother are waiting in the hospital to find out if her girlfriend will one day be able to have a baby. When the news arrives they both start crying but for different reasons. It was a touching scene in an honest story about what happens when you realize you and the person you love are heading down different paths. 

Zac, in only the second time he’s told with us, shared a story about when he was a young man taking care of his mother who was dying of cancer. Zac stepped up on an hour’s notice to tell this story when he heard that a couple of tellers couldn’t make the show. I had no idea that he had never told this story publicly. We could see his face change as he dealt with each memory as it came back to him moment by moment. He took us back 20 years to a Mexican restaurant in California when he realized his mother wasn’t going to be with him much longer. As he saw his mother’s body falling apart in front of him, he realized there was one thing he could do to make this night ok for them. It was something that’s going to stay with all of us for a long time.

Ed was next with a story from all the way back in 1969 when he came back from the Vietnam war.  It turns out that his dad was a lot like my dad. He was hard to talk to about serious things and was more concerned with fixing than listening. Ed learned his father loved him when his mother told him that he did. I think a lot of us had to find out from our mothers that our father actually loved us. If you want to know how important it is to hear that your dad loves you all you have to know is that this story happened over 50 years ago and it was still powerful enough for Ed to want to share it with us.

Niranjian got the award for greatest distance from FGS HQ as he beamed in from the future in Australia. I was so glad he did because I wanted him to tell one last story before we ended our Zoom shows. He told a story that was personally terrifying for me because it was about being attacked by birds. If you ever want to get me to do something just threaten me with a bird. Any bird will do. Eagle, emu, robin, yellow-bellied sapsucker, it doesn’t matter. Feathered, flying dinosaurs are the stuff of my nightmares. So I’m glad Niranjian escaped with his life and discovered that if you can’t beat’em, feed’em.

Chris then told a beautiful story about learning to sign her name in second grade and how the weight of that signature has changed over the years. I love it when a teller takes a simple, everyday act and shows how it can mean much more sometimes. Have you ever thought of what your signature can do? It can buy you and car and a house and a thousand other things. It can also tell a doctor what to do if someone you love doesn’t make it out of surgery. Chris was at her storytelling finest here. Some of the tellers you see at FGS are so good you should study them. Chris is one of them.

Jamie told her second story with us and I am really looking forward to seeing her transition from Zoom to being onstage. Somehow she was able to tell her story of coming to America through her adventures at Costco, office potlucks, and the golden egg yolk pastry she loved as a kid in Malaysia. It was one of those stories that we were all able to relate to even though most of us were born here. It was a wonderful example of how storytelling can bring people together no matter how different their lives seem to be on the outside.

Tracey followed Chris with a story that made us all want to overhaul the American medical system. It started with a voicemail from her primary care physician who, after seeing Tracey’s lab results, asked if she had a treatment plan in place. It’s never good when your doctor asks if you have a treatment plan in place, especially when you have no idea why you would need a treatment plan in the first place. After a series of misdiagnoses from various doctors, humiliations at every level of the system, and uber rides where she had to say, “No, take me further down the street to the good ER,” she finally managed to find someone who could fix what was going on with her heart. We’re all happy that Tracey is still with us but I’d be lying if I said any of us are looking forward to the day we find out we need a treatment plan for something. If you’d like to read more about this yoga teacher’s heart attack you can check it out here: https://www.unicornheartgal.com/my-heart-story

Emily closed out the show that night with a story that had a twist in it that took me completely by surprise. I’ve seen teachers break up fights between students but I’ve never seen a teacher break up a fight like Emily did. Some of the biggest laughs I’ve ever had came right after I just heard something I couldn’t believe. There’s a moment toward the end of Emily’s story that gave me a laugh like that. I don’t want to tell you what it is because I know you’re going to hear her tell it at other shows in the future. All I can say is that it’s about something in her life she rarely talks about and I’m touched she chose to share it at our show.

Recently, Emily asked me to tell a story at a great show she co-produces at the Fremont Abbey called Locally Fameless. I’ve been to two of them so far and can unreservedly recommend it to anyone who loves true storytelling. I’ll be on the next one which is probably going to be scheduled for April 28 (but check the link below to make sure.)

https://www.facebook.com/locallyfameless

If you’d like to pitch your own story for Locally Fameless write Emily at emilyjpitts@gmail.com. They’re always looking for new tellers and they spend a lot of time coaching each teller they put on the show. So if you’ve never told a story in front of a live audience, this is a great place to start.

I hope to see a bunch of you at our next show April 21 where we’ll finally be back at our favorite Starbucks. The theme is, “Stumbles, Bumbles, and Fumbles – Stories of making mistakes.” 

Our next workshop is April 3, hosted by Dave and Colleen. It’s a great place to get feedback on a story you’re working on as well as meet other tellers in the area.

Write me directly at freshgroundstories at gmail dot com if you have any questions.

I’ll get the invite out for the April show sometime this weekend.

Take care,

Paul