We did it! We had our first in-person show since last year and it was great. The place was packed and the energy was fantastic. Do you even remember what it was like to hang out in a room full of people and listen to stories? Studies say it’s 1,852 times better than watching on Zoom. We had just enough chairs for everyone that night so now I’m out hunting down used folding chairs and will have more seating by the time our February 16 show rolls around. Super special thanks to Rabbi Shnai who surprised us with beer and babka! So much kosher goodness!

Maryanne started us off with a story about adopted families, Virginia Jews, kosher kitchens, washing dishes in a river, and a flock of ducks. I can’t think of a better way to open our new venue than with a story that bobs and weaves its way through all those things and 50 years of friendship. Thank you, Maryanne.

Aaron, a first-timer, was up next with a story on everything you do to avoid being with your family at a wedding. Was the term love/hate invented for families? Aaron got to put one over on his family and drive off into the sunset before they figured it out. Sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.

Ashley was next with a story that solved the age-old riddle of “how do you crash a hang glider without leaving the ground?” Luckily, she only ended up hog-tied and terrified so she got to live to tell the story. I’d love to do a show one day about near-death experiences. Do we have enough people to do a whole show on that? Let me know if you have a story like that and I’ll see if we can get a whole evening out of it.

Laura was up next with a story of everything a teenage girl does when trying to avoid her dad on a family vacation. Who knew that the theme of “Lessons we didn’t want to learn” would end up with so many stories about family? It was great to see Laura again after we shared the stage at Locally Fameless last year. FGS is a great place to practice stories that you’re telling other places. I love the crossover we have with other shows in the PNW.

Gretchen was next with a story from grade school when she went into a “coiffure-induced trance” and did her best not to take her blunt-nosed scissors and snip off a ringlet of the girl who sat in front of her. I must admit, I too have been mesmerized by certain people’s hair, although I never had the nerve to take any of it home with me. The big lesson from Gretchen’s story was never let your mom find out what you did at school. I still remember the fear that would take hold of me when any adult said, “I’m going to call your mother.” It was even scarier than hearing, “Wait till your father gets home.” 

Jeremy, another first-timer, told one of the most beautiful stories we’ve ever heard at FGS. It was about being with his father who was slowly dying from cancer and the moments and stories they shared together. I hope all of us can be as content in our final days as Jeremy’s father was. Both of my parents died before they got their stories out.. I hope I’ve shared enough stories with my son so that I’m gone he won’t feel like his father was a mystery

David then went up and told a wonderful story about being abandoned by his traveling nurse. How did that all come about? Well, you should have been there. All I’ll say is that I love a story that ends with a surprise thank you. Imagine how happy we’d be if we all tried to figure out a way to be grateful for the bad times.

Mary shared a story that we could all see was hard for her to talk about. It was about a robbery that happened at the Shakey’s she worked at many years ago and the guilt she held onto about it. I hope telling that story helped her. One of the most powerful things about storytelling is that it allows us to decide what our experiences mean and how those stories end. It gives us power when we feel powerless. That’s why this show is one of the most important things in my life. I get reminded of the power and need for this kind of storytelling every month.

Next up was our final first-timer, Sanjay. He told a story full of humor, humility, and self-reflection. Afterward, we all decided that he needed to come to everyone’s jobsite and teach our bosses how to listen and lead. Thank you, Sanjay, for making me believe that there are people out there who know how to lead with insight and integrity.

Melissa was our final teller with the story of how she moved her parents to Seattle from the midwest. Did she almost kill her father with an oyster? Of course, she did. But what’s a story without a little anaphylactic shock? Thank you, Melissa, for sharing a story of equal parts love and frustration. I think that’s about the ratio all of us have when it comes to family.

Speaking of family, Melissa has been part of our FGS family for quite a while and I’m happy to announce she just published a great book on storytelling for business. If you had seen her tell last Thursday you’d know that she’s a pro. I’m halfway through the book and can happily recommend it to anyone who wants to learn how to lead better through storytelling. It’s a full-length book available on Kindle. Get it!

Thanks again to everyone who came out and especially all the people who talked with me after the show. Making friends and having conversations is a big part of FGS and we’re lucky we have time to meet and get to know each other at our new venue.

Next month’s theme is “Starting Over.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

See you on the 16th!

Paul

freshgroundstories@gmail.com

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