FGS: From Out of Nowhere – Stories of unexpected help

I’m always suspicious when I hear people say, “I earned everything I got. No one ever gave me anything.” They’re probably saying that right after someone stopped to let them into traffic or they’re snapping up a maple bar from a box of doughnuts someone brought into work. I am happy to say that lots of people have helped me get to where I am today. I would be leading a terribly lonely life if I couldn’t look back and remember all the help I’ve received from family, friends, and strangers.

Knowing that I’ve been helped by others keeps me humble and appreciative. It also reminds me that I’m not alone. This morning one of my best friends asked me if I thought he was compassionate enough when he saw his male friends struggling with something. He was worried that he was too jokey when he saw one of us breaking down a little.

When I was growing up, no man would ever ask that. Most men wouldn’t even have cared. Suck it up and walk it off was all I ever heard growing up. I was touched that Mark was worried he wasn’t being helpful enough when one of his buddies needed someone to talk to. I was happy to tell him that he was just fine. He’s one of two men I trust to open up to when I’m in a riptide of emotions and getting pulled out to sea.

There is no way any of us would be here without a lot of help. Every time someone at FGS asks if they can help me set up chairs or move the furniture I feel blessed by the universe. Whenever I hear that there’s less money for community service programs I feel gratitude for all the food stamps, rental assistance, and WIC coupons I was given when my son was small and we were broke.

When I was 10, my mother took me back to St. Paul Island, Alaska, where I was born. My parents had just split up for the umpteenth time and for some reason Mom wanted me to see the rock in the middle of the Bering Sea where I came into the world. At a time when I was feeling about as lonely and dadless as a little boy could feel, she took me to one of the loneliest places on earth. I’m sure she had a good reason for doing it but my 10-year-old self couldn’t fathom it. While we were there, one of her male friends took me down to the rocky shore to go fishing.

I remember him showing me how to bait a hook and cast it out into the sea. It was the first time anyone had ever taken me fishing. I caught my first fish that day, a 21-1/2 inch dolly varden. The man had me sling it over my back so I could carry it back to the village. I was so short, the fish was half as long as I was. Until I started writing this, I was always sad that my dad wasn’t the one who helped me catch my first fish. Looking back now, I’m grateful that it was someone I had never met before who did that for me. My dad was a good man. He did lots of great things for me. But parents can’t be there for everything. Sometimes we have to rely on the rest of the world to help us. That guy on St Paul, whose name I can’t remember, reminds me that people show up all the time to help each other. He also reminds me that sometimes it’s my job to be the one who shows up.

Not all help comes with a story but some of them do and that’s what we’re looking for this month. Come tell a story about a time when you were failing, flailing, or just beat down, and someone or something helped you. It could be a person, an organization, an idea, or anything else that helped you pull it back together.

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/

I hope to see you all Sept 19th at 7 pm at the Olive Way Starbucks 🙂

Feel free to email me if you have any questions



Thank you :)

Well, you did it again. You got me out of my funk and reminded me of how lucky I am to have this show to come to every month. From the tellers who share their lives, to the people who show up and offer to help with the audio (Matt), to my friend Kris who helps in too many ways to list, to the Starbucks staff and management who make me feel so welcome, thank you for making this a place for people to connect and feel a part of something. I wish everyone had a Fresh Ground Stories to remind them that the world is often kinder and more generous than we think it is.

We began the evening with the perfect opening story. After a year of my nudging (or possibly nagging), Kent finally returned and told the best almost-killed-by-the-Yugoslavian-militia story we’ve ever heard. I’m glad those guys don’t have itchy trigger fingers and that Kent was able to come back from Prague with a great story.

I was super happy to see two first-timers get up and do such a great job. Sue showed us how the stress of planning your wedding can put you in the hospital just days before that very wedding. If I ever get married, I’m going to take her advice and let Cupcake Royale decide the flavors of my mini wedding cupcakes so I can stay home and get some rest. Our other first-timer David W went up a few minutes later and showed us why you should never take marriage advice from an Uber driver. This night was so informative!

Sara told us how easy it is for a herd of buffalo to sneak up on you, and Bruce laid a story on us that made me wonder what UFO’s are doing in New Jersey. Don’t they usually show up in a potter’s field in Kansas somewhere? Bruce is pitching that story to Risk! next week and I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll hear it on the podcast. 

Thanks to Colleen, we now know what it’s like to wake up from a car crash to see a priest administering your last rites. It was hysterical for us, but I’m pretty sure that priest is still in therapy 🙂

Carl told us how frustrating it can be when you’re trying to help someone escape from a bully when you can’t let anyone you’re trying to help them escape. And David T shared what it feels like when your kidney explodes. (Please let me never get anything that puts me in the hospital for 131 days) And Stephanie showed us what can happen when you put too much faith in Yelp reviews. On a serious note, I’m grateful to the woman who reached out to her after reading her review on couchsurfing.com. She let Stephanie know she wasn’t crazy and that she didn’t misread the situation. There are some bad people out there and we need to support the ones who have the courage to stand up and say something. Thank you anonymous woman on the internet.

One of our new regulars, Melissa, closed the show with a beautiful story of how she’s helping her daughter get through OCD therapy. It was funny and touching and in the end, full of hope. Thank you Melissa, for sharing you and your daughter’s journey. I know there were people in the audience that night who needed to hear it. 

The storyteller who surprised me the most that night was from my son, Taran. He told the story of what it was like to be eight years old and watch your parents fight for custody. It was hard for him to tell and harder for me to listen. Even though it happened 20 years ago, his story brought back all those old emotions. It was a terrible time in everyone’s life. I’ve never asked him what it was like for him to go through that because I didn’t think I could handle the answer. Now that he’s told the story, there’s no need for me to wonder anymore. All I can do now is be grateful that he still loves his parents and that storytelling is helping him explore those memories. 

Our theme for September is, “From Out of Nowhere – Stories of unexpected help.” It’ll be on Sept 19. I’ll get out the official invite as soon as I can. Look for it in your inbox next week. 

In the meantime, be sure to check out Auntmama’s Storytable, the other amazing storytelling show at the Olive Way Starbucks, on August 29. Auntmama’s show has storytelling, live music, poetry, fiction stories, and all sorts of wonderful stuff. This month’s featured performer is the poet, Marshay Mitchell. I saw Marshay perform a few months ago at another show and she was fantastic. 

That’s all for now. Thanks again to all the tellers who walked up to the microphone and everyone in the audience who supported them.

See you on the 19th



See you tomorrow!

Hi All,

Just a quick reminder of tomorrow’s show and a wonderful Moth story I just stumbled across. I hope you’re all having a great week 🙂

Here’s the link to tomorrow’s theme: Escape – Stories of breaking free https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories/events/263413411/

The rules if you want to tell a story:

And my new favorite Moth story:

See you at the Olive Way Starbucks tomorrow at 7:00!



Escape – Stories of breaking free

I had a big story to share with everyone about an escape I made in the summer of 2017 but I couldn’t get it finished in time for this invite. I’ve been working on it for months but when I got to the ending a few days ago I realized it wasn’t a story about escaping as much as it was about a story of facing something.

I’d still share it with you as a story of escape but now the ending is all messed up. I gotta figure out how to explain that by trying to escape an old memory, I ended up having to confront my shortcomings and accept that I did my best with what I had at the time. Sometimes in the middle of telling a story, I catch a glimpse of the person I used to be and cringe. That’s what happened with the story I was going to share with you this month. You know how I always start the show by saying, “Tell from your scars, not your wounds”? Well, it looks like this was memory wasn’t quite scarred over enough. Maybe by next month I’ll have the words to get that story down right. And that’ll make it easier for me to accept that it happened.

In the meantime, I’d love for some of you to bring to the next FGS a story of escaping something. Tell us about a time when you escaped from a person, a place, a belief, a way of life, or anything else that made you feel trapped. What were you running from? How did you get there? Did you sneak away or run for your life? Maybe you escaped from a stifling hometown. Maybe you escaped from a way of life that didn’t work or you anymore. I’m pretty sure we’ve all escaped from something at some time. Bring that story to the Olive Way Starbucks on August 15. We’d love to hear it.

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

Make sure the story is clean, practiced, and under 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. Your story can be as short as you want but not over 8 minutes. Thanks for understanding.


Such a fun show!

What a great show we had last week! We had a bunch of new tellers along with some old tellers who hadn’t been back in years. Once FGS gets its hooks in you it’s pretty hard to stay away forever 🙂

One of my favorite things about FGS is that I’m always surprised by the tiny details people remember that lead to stories. First-timer, Colleen, told a sweet story about cherry tomatoes that made me wonder how many things I’ve missed in my everyday life that could be turned into a story. Thank you, Colleen, not just for your story but for the lesson as well.

Melissa, in only her second time at Olive Way, told a hysterical story about being conned by a fortune teller and how she exacted revenge through her own sting operation. I have no idea what Melissa does for a living, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it involved bringing to justice everyone from illegal arms merchants to expired coupon passers.

Soren, another first-timer, told one of the most visually beautiful stories we’ve ever heard at FGS. Quite a feat since we don’t allow PowerPoints. He told us about a para-gliding experience that everyone was talking about after the show. It made me smile to hear people reciting some of his lines as they mingled afterward.

I wish you had been there to hear Vanda talk about her transformative experience in an Extended Stay America (why do people never have life-changing moments in a Hyatt?) Sam’s story about how a puddle of sweat led to finding true love is one of my favorites that he’s told with us. I’ll put a link to the version he told at The Moth at the bottom of this. Thank you, Sam, for staying out late and closing the show for us.

The story I really wish you had all been there for was Antoine’s. He told a beautiful story about his struggle to speak to women that was incredibly funny and also very touching. I’ll never forget the woman behind me whispering in my ear just before I went up after Antoine, “Would you please tell that young man there’s a 93-year-old lady over here who would love to talk to him?” Naturally, I had to tell the audience what she told me and got one of the biggest laughs ever. A few minutes later when it was Vanda’s turn to tell a story she began it by turning to Antoine in the audience and saying something in French that I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be allowed to say if it had been in English. Antoine, I don’t think you’ll have any problem talking to women if you keep coming back and telling stories like you did that night. Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable up there.

I’ll stop here so you can get back to your weekend. Part of me wants to tell you about every story we hear at FGS but another part wants me to leave you hanging a little bit so you come out and see the show in person.

Thanks to all the tellers who shared their stories last night. Apologies to the two people whose names I had to leave in Mr. Coffee because we ran out of time. Bruce and Sara, I’ll do my best to get you on a show later this year. You’ve each told some great stories at FGS and I know you had some great ones prepared that night.

Next month’s show will be August 15. The theme is “Escape.” I’ll get the official invite out as soon as I can. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with two good resources for anyone working on a story, and a link to Sam’s Moth story that he told for us Thursday.

Excellent monthly workshop specifically for personal storytelling like we do at FGS. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s run by two FGS regulars who do a great job giving tips and feedback: https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories-Storytelling-Workshop/events/263317726/

If you’re in the south Puget Sound area, Vanda runs a memoir writing Meetup every weekend down here in Olympia. I’ve joined her for the last two weekends and gotten a lot of writing done. It’s just her and anyone else who shows up at a spacious Starbucks. You write for a couple hours (or however long you want) and if you feel compelled, you can share some of it afterward for feedback: https://www.meetup.com/Olympia-Memoir-writing-Lifewriting-Meetup-Group/events/bvrgdryzkbkc/

Here is the story Sam Blackman shared to close out the show Thursday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBHB5yyDW0U

Big thanks to all the folks who come out who don’t tell a story but support the ones who do. You are a big part of why FGS is so special. Thank you for all the patience, love, and support you give to everyone who walks up to that microphone.

See you all on the 15th!