Fresh Ground Stories: I Hate to Say This – Stories of not keeping your mouth shut

“I hate to tell you this.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that phrase but I think I could go the rest of my life without hearing it again and not feel like I’ve lost out on anything.

As hard as it is to hear I have to admit that it’s rarely been a surprise. By the time I go to the doctor I’m already bracing myself for the worst. Whenever I hear it in a relationship I’m usually aware that I’ve been on borrowed time for a while. You know how excited you get when you wake up and smell bacon cooking? Sometimes I wake up and smell the Bacon of Breakup. I’m not kidding. I can smell a breakup that’s about to happen. I don’t know exactly what it smells like but it’s not bacon. The other day I saw a guy try to high five his girlfriend and she walked right past him. That’s what breakup smells like.

Anyway, the most awkward moments for me are not when I’m being dumped, it’s when I’m trying to tell a woman how I feel about her. It’s the “I love you” moment. Or the “So, you know I have a crush on you” moment. I think I have a special talent for choosing the wrong person to fall for.

Once I was sitting on a bench with a lady I had a crush on and as we were looking across the water I said, “You know I’m kinda sweet on you.” Without even looking at me she said, “Why don’t those condos have windows on the side facing the bay? Who wants to look out over an ugly parking lot?” I don’t think she was purposely comparing me to a parking lot but it did sort of create that impression.

Another time a woman I was head over heels for wrote to ask if I’d like to get a house and be roommates with her. I couldn’t say no fast enough. I said, “Look, if we were roommates I would spend every waking moment trying to charm the pants off you. I don’t mean that as a figure of speech. I mean literally charm the pants off you.” In my head, this was the best way to say I had a huge crush on her. To her credit, she matched my glancing heartfelt confession with an admission of platonic misdirection. She sent back emoticons of three baby chickens and a puppy gif.

You can never tell how these hard talks are going to be received. Honesty is scary. And it’s not always rewarded in the way you want. I was going to write this month’s story about the time a doctor told me my mom had cancer but I don’t have the emotional energy to dig that one up. Then I thought I’d talk about the time I had to call my dad and tell him I got someone pregnant. There’s a big difference between calling your dad to tell me he’s going to be grandparent and calling your dad to tell him you got a girl pregnant. It was a hard call but it was met on my dad’s end with surprising grace. I don’t have the energy to tell that story either, though.

Tonight I want to go to bed thinking about the times I put my heart on the line and told someone how much I cared about them. Every time I’ve done that it’s paid off. Not always in the way I wanted but it was always good in the end. The lady on the bench who got nervous when I said I liked her? A few years ago, in the depths of the worst depression in my life, she and my buddy Mark came over and gave me the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. The woman who sent me three chickens and puppy gif? I saw her the other day. She’s as beautiful as ever and we still get together as often as we can. She didn’t run from being my friend and I never treated her any different because that’s all she wanted to be.

I’m grateful to all the people who let me start an awkward conversation and to all the people who had to start one with me. It means a lot that you trusted me enough to say what you had to say even if you knew I wasn’t going to take it well at the time.

And that’s the kind of story we’re hoping you bring to the next FGS, Thursday, December 10 at 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.

The rules for stories are below but you know the kind we’re looking for: true stories that happened to you that still mean something to you days, months or years later.

Remember to keep it clean and under 8 minutes.

Rules & Guidelines:

I hope to see you there.


Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who came out to the show last Thursday. I look forward to this night every month. No matter what the theme is or what stories are told I’m always grateful to see people willing to be so beautifully honest and vulnerable up there in front of everyone.

David, one of our regulars came up to me after the show and said, “Those newcomers. They were awesome!” And he was right. They were awesome. Two of them were shaking so hard while they told their story I thought I was going to have to go up there and give them a hug so they could get through it. But each of them made it just fine and they have a lot to be proud of. Big thanks to Roger, Lynx, Cindy and Bailey.

One of the most powerful moments in the show came during the second story. It was from one of the first-timers, Bailey. I won’t tell you what the story was about because I feel it was something for just those people who were there in that moment to share. But I will tell you one thing she said that I think we should all hear more often, “Don’t stop fighting for your happiness.” It’s been a long, hard road for her to find happiness and telling her story at our show was one more step on that journey. She said that night was the first time in 25 years she had been in front of a group of people. Thank you for choosing to be with us when you took that step Bailey. Thanks also to everyone in the audience who stayed with her during the long silences in her story where she was pulling herself together so she could say the next word. Don’t ever feel bad about not getting up and telling a story of your own. Being a kind and patience audience member is what makes this all possible.

Thanks to all the storytellers who told that night: Jake, Kris, David, Lynx, Cindy, Barb, Hannah, Gary, Kevin, Bailey, Roger, TC, and Keith.

The only thing I regret during the show is that I forgot to remind everyone that another one of our regulars, Jonathan, is offering a storytelling workshop this Wednesday. It’s $15 for a 3-hour class and that is a very good deal. It basically pays for the room and the materials. I’ve been to lots of storytelling workshops and I have always gotten something important out of them. It’s also a good way to meet other tellers and find cool people to work on stories with after the class ends.

Here’s the link to it:

Next month’s show is Dec 10th. The theme is “The Hardest Thing You’ve Ever Had To Say.” It doesn’t matter if it’s something you had to say to another person or just quietly to yourself. And since I know that maybe the #1 hardest thing you’ve ever said isn’t something you want to say in public we’ll accept the 2nd or 3rd hardest thing you’ve said. Or if you have a really good story about the 15th hardest thing you’ve ever had to say then definitely tell that one :)

I gotta say one more thing before I let you go. I’ve met some amazing people at this show and a few of them have gone on to become some of my favorite people. Nathan Vass is one of those people. I don’t get to see him nearly enough so whenever he shows up at Roy Street it’s a special treat for me. Two days ago I learned he was in Paris during the attacks. No one could get ahold of him. We wrote emails, checked his facebook page, called his parents, checked all the news coverage for his name. Nothing. Today was getting kind of scary. I just started getting to know this guy and now I’m regretting all the times I’d been in Seattle and didn’t call him to go get a cup of coffee.

A few minutes ago I got an email saying CNN had found Nathan safe and sound. As happy as I am for him and his family I’m also happy that I’ve been given a second chance to get to know him better.

Here are two links to learn about more about him.

His story from the August FGS:

The recording from last week’s show came out fine so I can give each of the storytellers a copy of their performance if they want it. I only give them to the people who told a story and it’s only the audio of their own story. Most performers don’t want their personal stories online so that’s why I only give copies to the people who told them.

That’s all for now. Thanks again to everyone who came up and supported all the tellers that night. I hope to see you on the 10th!


Fresh Ground Stories: Change of Heart – Stories of left turns and change ups

I was looking through my desk the other day when I came across a little notebook I had almost forgotten about. As soon as I saw it I remembered exactly what was in it. At some point during the fall of 2011 I decided to list all my fears. I don’t know why I wanted to do this. I certainly had no desire to face them. Maybe I was just starting to realize how powerful a role fear played in my life and I wanted to see how deep it went.

So I started writing every night when I got into bed. Just before you fall asleep is not the best time to write down every terrifying thought you’ve ever had. In fact, I would say it’s the worst time to do it. But that’s when I always found the pen and paper in my hand so that’s when I did it.

Every night for months I wrote down every thought that ever terrorized me. Some were easy. Birds-they’ve always seemed murderous to me. Going over that waterfall in South America-the one with the 3,000 foot drop. Fear of losing my job and having to live in my car again.

As the weeks went by, the writing itself began to scare me. I didn’t want to admit all the fear that steered my life. Fear that I won’t have courage when I need it. Fear that someone I didn’t like was right about me. Fear that someone would hear my name and roll their eyes thinking, “Ugh, that guy.”

Two nights ago as I read through the book I saw on page 28, right there between sharks and bad milk, “Fear of being honest.” I closed my eyes and put the book down slowly. I felt like I’d just seen a old friend’s name in the obituary column and couldn’t read any further.

Fear of being honest isn’t in me anymore but I remember what it felt like. For me, at the core of being honest was the fear of being alone. Deep down in my heart, somewhere between the cockles and the ventricles, was the belief that I needed to keep my true feelings secret for anyone to stick around.

The good news is not long after I wrote that my life fell apart completely and I got to spend the next two years learning how to put my little Humpty Dumpty heart back together again. If I hadn’t spent those two years relearning how to see the world and my place in it I wouldn’t have been able to reopen the book a few minutes later and read that line again.

This time I managed to keep it open and think back to the guy who wrote it. You know what I remember? He did the best he could with what he had. He had a really good handle on every terrible thing the world could throw at him but he never stopped looking for the love and kindness he’d heard was out there somewhere.

Part of what running this show has taught me is that speaking your fears will bring the people you need into your life. I don’t know why but that’s what it’s done for me. I went from sitting in the dark filling 44 pages with crippling fears to getting onstage and talking about the scariest moments of my life with a room full of strangers. I can’t tell you I’m completely fearless but I can say that if I wrote that book today it would fit on a postcard.

And that’s the kind of story we’d like you to bring to our next show: Change of Heart – Stories of left turns and change ups.

Tell us about an event or series of events that caused you to change how you looked at things or how you live your life. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just something that shifted you one way or the other.

The rules for stories are below but you know the kind we’re looking for: true stories that happened to you that still mean something to you days, months or years later.

Remember to practice out loud on friends or pets and keep it under 8 minutes.

Rules & Guidelines:

I hope to see you at our next show on Thursday, November 12, 7:00pm at the Roy St Coffee and Tea.


Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who came out to last week’s show. I was worried the Seahawks game would keep people from coming but we had over 100 people in the audience and a lot of beautiful stories on stage :)

If you’ve been to one of our shows before you know I always tell people that the most difficult spot in the lineup is the first one. People are still getting their drinks and settling into their chairs. They’re trying to finish up that last email or text and their attention isn’t always completely focused on the first storyteller.

Last Thursday David was the first teller of the evening and it didn’t take more than a few seconds for the entire room to stop what they were doing and listen. David has been a doctor for many years and some of long-time patients are now in their 70s and 80s. When their lives are coming to a close and they don’t have much time left he often goes to their homes and sits with them. He said you can’t take care of someone for 30 years and not be there with them when they’re dying. It was a wonderful story that I wish everyone could have heard live. Luckily, David has given me permission to post it online so look for it on our Facebook page in a few days.

We also had two first-timers, Louisa and Sasha, and both of them just knocked me out. Louisa’s friend put her name in Mr. Coffee and I’m not sure he bothered to tell her or that he had a firm grasp of the rules. I called Louisa’s name just as she was coming out of the bathroom and when she walked onstage she whispered to me, “What am I supposed to do?” I told her that she had to tell a story. She asked if she could read something. I said no way. No notes allowed. So she pulled a couple of pages out of her pocket, threw them into the audience and told a completely different story that she pulled from her memory. Perfect storytelling moment!

Sasha, the other first-timer, told a heartbreaking story of her brother’s descent into mental illness. It was funny and touching and reminded me of how strong a family’s love can be for each other. I know I’m not the only one in that room wondering if we would do for a brother or sister what she did for hers. Thank you Sasha. I hope you and Louisa come back and tell more stories with us.

Thanks to all the people who stepped up to the microphone that night: David, Cathy, Louisa, Chris M, Chris S, Bill, Connie, Sasha, Zoe, Jonathan, and Brian.

Next month’s show is on Thursday, November 12. During November and December we hold the shows on the second Thursdays instead of the fourth Thursdays because of the holidays. The theme for November is “Change of Heart.” I haven’t written the official invite yet but I’ll try to get that out next week.

The recording came out fine so I can give each of the storytellers a copy of their performance if they want it. I only give them to the people who told a story and it’s only the audio of their own story. Most performers don’t want their personal stories online so that’s why I only give copies to the people who told them.

If you can’t wait until the 12th to hear a great story there are two great shows where you can catch some of our regulars.

I’ll be watching Bill Bernat perform his one-man show “Becoming More Less Crazy” on Nov 7 at the Jewelbox in Belltown:

Our good friends at A Guide to Visitors are running their annual ghost story show next Friday on Oct 30:
Lots of tellers from FGS end up telling stories at AGTV and it’s always a fun show.

That’s all for now. Thanks again to everyone who came up and supported all the tellers that night. I hope to see you on the 12th!


Thank you :)

Thanks to everyone who came out to the show last Thursday. I know it was a rough night with the traffic and news from the Aurora bridge but I’m grateful to everyone who turned up and supported all the storytellers.

We had a lot of heavy stories at this show and I was touched by the kindness and patience that over a hundred audience members gave each of the tellers. Anyone who has been following us for a while knows that my goal with Fresh Ground Stories is not just to give people a night of free entertainment. My goal is to give people a place to share stories they can’t share anywhere else. Sometimes it’s safer to share stories with strangers than it is with our own family. I guess that’s why so many tellers ask me for a recording so they can send it to their parents or siblings.

One of our newest members told a story about her husband dying that took a lot of faith and courage to share. It was amazing to see her coming to terms with her new life as she pushed further and further into the story. Those last two minutes are something I’ll remember for a long time.

One of our regulars, Cavan, told a story that I know he’s been keeping inside for months. I remember earlier this year when he told me how his father died. I knew back then that part of his healing would be to get onstage at Roy Street and talk about it. Thanks for letting him do that.

As always, I gotta give special thanks to our first-timers, Kat, Amy, Amelia and Lynn. You guys did great! Kat and I discovered we read the same book of love letters between Georgia O’Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz. We found out that Amy has a soft spot in her heart for arthritic greyhounds with explosive intestinal issues. Lynn, we now know, is very proud of her arrest record. Amelia has a heart for adventure I can only dream of. And Aimee has an unpronounceable compulsive disorder that makes me feel a lot less alone because I have one kinda like it. Go Team OCD!

I’m going to pull rank for a moment and mention my son Taran who told a sweet story about asking out the girl he was head over heels for in high school. They ended up going to Homecoming together and I remember that night as one of the special moments of his young life. I had never heard the whole story before and I was so happy to see him explain all the fear and uncertainty that led up to asking Katie to the dance.

Here is something my son doesn’t know. I kept one of the flowers Katie gave him that night. It’s been hidden in a little plastic container in the freezer for almost six years. I remember the look on Taran’s face when he told me the girl he was sweet on said she would go to the dance with him. Every time I see that little rose peeking out from behind the frozen blueberries it reminds me of the time a young woman told my son that she liked him and would love to go to the dance with him.

Ok, that’s enough of that. I’ll finish up by apologizing to two tellers I didn’t have time to put up, Deborah and Arden. Every other show it seems like I have to bump one or two people. Last time I had to bump my own kid. I hope you both keep coming out and throwing your name in Mr. Coffee. Sooner or later everyone who wants to tell a story will get up there.

Lastly, I want to remind you that there are still tickets available for the latest Words ‘N’ Music show at the Jewelbox, Oct 14 and 17. Words ‘N’ Music features some of our favorite stories from FGS regulars and live music between each one. It’s a lot of fun and a good way to stay connected. All we want to do is break even on expenses and if we sell about 50 more tickets we can do that and book another show with new stories.

The next Fresh Ground Stories is October 22. The theme is “Anything For Love.” I’ll write up the official invite in a few days so look for that in your inbox.

Last week’s recording came out fine so I can give the storytellers a copy of their performance if they want it. I only give out the audio to the people who told a story and it’s only the audio of their own story. Most performers don’t want their personal stories online so that’s why I only give copies to the people who told them.

See you on the 22nd!



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