When a seat is saved for us, a door is opened to a new learning opportunity. Real life. Author Kristin S. Kaufman has had the good fortune in her life to have many seats saved for her—both literally and figuratively. In this final book of her Is This Seat Taken?trilogy, Kristin invites you to come along with her as she revisits the moments in her life when she discovered the unmistakable wisdom revealed through the “seats” in which she found herself seated, from an empty folding chair at her high school reunion to the most formative roles of her career.Real lessons. In this, her most compelling and deeply personal book yet, Kristin shares with you her own struggles and victories to help illuminate the powerful life lessons that reveal themselves through everyday experiences—but only if you know how to look. A call-and-response story. Kristin invites you on her personal journey, offering questions along the way to motivate and inspire you to discover the lessons in your own life, gained from experiences such as:
• Suffering the loss of a parent • Learning to make friends as an adult • Striving for career success • Ending abusive or toxic relationships • Growing up with small-town values
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|Publisher:||Greenleaf Book Group Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Kristin S. Kaufman is a successful portfolio entrepreneur. In 2007, she founded Alignment, Inc., to serve individuals and corporations as they seek alignment within themselves and their organizations. Alignment, Inc., is a unique services company through which Kaufman has brought her expertise to tens of thousands of people, working with organizations to create sustainable success individually and collectively. With over 25 years of corporate experience, Kaufman has held leadership positions at three publicly traded companies. She was awarded the distinction of Professional Certified Coach from the International Coaching Federation, and achieved the designation of Certified Leadership Coach through Georgetown University's esteemed program. A popular keynote speaker to audiences ranging from 500 to 50,000, she brings her passion, wisdom, wit and Southern charm to each event. Kaufman is a prolific writer. Her first book, Is This Seat Taken? Random Encounters That Change Your Life, was released in 2011 to national acclaim, and was followed by a sequel, Is This Seat Taken? It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat released in 2015. She is an active civic and community volunteer, and currently serves in numerous non-profit board positions. Kaufman lives in Dallas, Texas, with her beloved rescued white Schnauzer, Lulu.
Read an Excerpt
One Little Girl Was Watching
* * *
[Kids] don't remember
what you try to teach them.
They remember what you are.
— Jim Henson, It's Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider
Small towns can be fishbowls, where our comings, goings, and doings can become gossip fodder at the Sunday night potluck supper. They can also be harmonious harbors, where we beautifully and seamlessly integrate into the daily fabric of the community. The picture of Bedford Falls, director Frank Capra's fictitious setting for the classic movie It's A Wonderful Life, comes to mind. This image absolutely exists in some small towns. The rhythm is slow paced, easy, and reassuring. That comforting cadence is like the first warm fire in autumn for those of us who grew up in small towns like this. Faces and families are familiar wherever you go, and everyone knows everyone.
My sister and I grew up in our version of Bedford Falls, in what is now referred to as the Quapaw-Prospect Historic District, which is nestled at the base of West Mountain — one of three mountains that hold the mysteries of our beloved Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. Our neighborhood was, and still is, rich in diversity. The small eight-block area nurtured a close community of neighbors. There were young families like ours, established or retired empty nesters, and several widows who had been there since they were newlyweds. The oldest homes, ours included, were built in the late 1880s. A beautiful collection of Colonial Revival, American Craftsman, Airplane Bungalow, and Queen Anne Victorian style homes was surrounded and enveloped by large centuries-old magnolia and live oak trees. St. John's Catholic Church sat on a high hill overlooking our neighborhood about a block away, and we could hear the large bells ring melodically every morning, noon, and evening. It was a magical setting for an idyllic childhood.
Our collection of neighbors offered a daily lesson in humanity. We had our very own Gladys Kravitz, the nosy character from the 1960's sitcom Bewitched. There was the lonely old spinster, hunched over like a cane, who walked everywhere she went. If we happened to be outside as she walked by, beware. As my granddaddy would say, "She could talk the ear off a billy goat." There were many families with children our age, so playing kickball in the front yard, playing Monopoly or Spades all day on rainy days, or sledding down Violet Street (which happened to be our street and the best hill in the neighborhood) when it snowed were staples when we were growing up. We had neighbors come and go over the decades, yet the communal spirit that led neighbors to, figuratively or literally, ask for a cup of sugar never wavered in the entire 55 years our family lived there. Every neighbor showed us something different through their daily routines and the way in which they approached life.
While reminiscing, I realized I could write an entire book on the characters of my childhood, particularly those from my neighborhood. Two neighbors' stories continue to stand out. Though they had full names and full lives prior to my knowing them, I remember them simply as Mrs. Moriarity and Mrs. Dillard. They were widows, living directly next door on either side of our childhood home. While both were in their 80s, they could not have been more different.
Mrs. Moriarity was a small woman, no more than five feet tall, hearty and frail all in the same breath. It was as if her strength came from an inner iron frame that was draped in a thin veil of threadbare silk, which could be torn by the slightest breeze. She wore matronly black or blue dresses and thick stockings that made her legs look almost like beige prosthetics, with cumbersome, corrective black lace-up shoes completing her ensemble. A white hairnet kept her hair pinned to her head like a Q-tip. She did not own a car, and walked everywhere she needed to go slowly and deliberately, with a rocking, arthritic gate that swung side to side like a pendulum. Mrs. Moriarity quietly attended mass every day at St. John's Catholic Church. She went to the grocery each week and would carry her small paper bag of groceries the two blocks back to her home. Her paltry income came from renting the bottom half of her Airplane Bungalow home. She lived upstairs in the spartan attic apartment, which had a separate outside entrance in the back but did not have air conditioning. We often wondered how she managed in that attic during the hot, humid summers in Arkansas. Yet she did, and she never uttered a single complaint. From a child's perspective, her life was plain and simple.
Mrs. Lila Dillard was the antithesis of Mrs. Moriarity in many ways. When we moved next door in the early 1960s, she was married. She lost her husband several years later, and they did not have children. Mr. Dillard had been a devoted, almost saintly husband who had taken tremendous care of her and left her in relatively comfortable stead. Mrs. Dillard was a pretty woman, and I am quite certain she was eye-catching in her youth. Her carrot-red hair, now from a bottle, was perfectly curled and coiffed and often framed with vintage multicolored rhinestone earrings. Rain or shine, she always wore stockings with a black seam running perfectly straight up the back of her shapely, thin ankles and legs, with high-heel crocodile pumps and a matching satchel bag. In the winter, she would don a mink-collared overcoat with leather gloves, always gingerly gripping an embroidered white handkerchief. She never left the house unless she was immaculately dressed, down to the gnat's whisker.
As we were growing up, our parents consistently encouraged my sister and me to visit Mrs. Dillard and Mrs. Moriarity, and not just at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Mom and Daddy wanted us to learn from them and show them love, compassion, and interest. They would often say, "Someday this may be you." At first, these visits were obliged under duress. As we grew older, we looked forward to spending a few minutes every now and then with them. Often with Mrs. Moriarity, it was simply standing in her driveway or on her front porch exchanging pleasantries and answering her questions about school and our other activities. With Mrs. Dillard, we would sit in her dimly lit living room surrounded by her antiques, photographs, and a too-large-for-the-room grand piano and listen to her stories. She had been an avid and accomplished pianist, had traveled all over the United States, and had lived a full life over her eight-plus decades. She relished in sharing her experiences with us, and we found unexpected delight in hearing about them.
Both these women passed away many years ago. I am quite certain they never would have expected a chapter in a book to be written about them, and certainly not by their little girl next- door neighbor. Their lives were simultaneously simple and rich. Mrs. Dillard and Mrs. Moriarity lived their independent lives, as diverse as they were, and each made an indelible mark on my character, my value system, and my appreciation for the elder generation simply by living their lives. One truly never knows the impression one will make on another.
From Where I Sit
* * *
There are such things as small-town values, like your word being your bond, being kind and supportive to everyone who crosses your path, and never judging a book by its cover. Those are much more than clichés; they are the foundations on which many of us were reared. Those homespun principles permanently permeated our DNA and the way we make meaning in our lives. As children, next to our parents and our church, the familial nature of our neighborhood was the core nourishment that built our principled foundation.
Mrs. Dillard and Mrs. Moriarity were just two of the teachers from whom we learned every single day. They needn't have said a word to us for us to have observed and been enriched by their actions and the choices they made in their lives. Mrs. Dillard took tremendous pride each day in putting her best foot forward. Up until the day she took her last breath, she had her hair combed, put her lipstick on, was kind, and lived life with vigor and enthusiasm. Mrs. Moriarity was devout in her faith and lived her devotion without proclaimed piety but with quiet adoration. She was always kind and always interested in "us girls." She was not caught up in material possessions, and though she may have worried about her finances, we never felt that or heard her voice fear or concern. She believed she was unquestionably in the palm of God's hand and would be all right.
In the last decades of their lives, these women taught grace, strength, and appreciation for life through their daily habits. One little girl watched. One little girl absorbed what she saw. Now that little girl is sharing that often the greatest teachers in our lives never whisper a word with the intention to teach, yet exemplify powerful lessons every day, simply by virtue of the way they live.
* * *
I Saved This Seat for You
What might a neighbor be teaching you through their daily actions?
What are you teaching your neighbors with yours?
What does the word "neighbor" mean today?
We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.
— Stephen King, 11/22/63CHAPTER 2
* * *
Grace has been defined the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.
— William Hazlitt, The Round Table
On that day I will never forget, the trees were changing, and the leaves painted a colorful canvas of burnt orange, bright yellow, and red. School had started, and the weather seemed cooler in September back in the 1960s than it does today. The onset of autumn has always been tied to the start of school. My memory of that day is no different. The anticipation of a new school year, and all the associated extracurricular activities, created a growing buzz of euphoria.
As Momma drove up the steep hill, the outline of the large white Victorian house came into view. This old home had served many purposes in its life, and now bore the name Ann Gidcomb's School of Dance. The wind whipped our hair as we got out of the car. Momma blew us kisses and sent us off: "Here you go, girls. See you in a few hours. Have a good time, and be sweet girls."
As we walked through the back door of the historic home- turned-dance-studio, the combined musty smell of old plank floors, floral perfume, and youthful perspiration was strangely familiar and welcoming.
"Hello, Krista-belle!" came the melodic greeting from around the corner.
"Hi, Miss Ann," I answered as I dropped my fully loaded tote on the floor. Hearing the nickname she gave to me always brought a smile to my face. It made me feel unique and special.
"You girls put your shoes on and come to the barre. We'll get started in a few minutes."
Miss Ann did not walk into a room — she floated. It was as if she had invisible wings that carried her just above the ground, like a graceful hovercraft. Her baby-pink leotard and soft voile tutu revealed a slender figure, the result of a lifetime of dance. Her crimson hair was always perfectly kempt. There was a perpetual faint smile on her face, and a genteel countenance that permeated everything she said and did. She had a kindness that laced her voice and beamed from her soft, dark brown, almond-shaped eyes. Every little girl looked up to her with movie-star admiration and hovered close for her hugs. Miss Ann was a velvet force. She had an ever-present discerning attention to detail, and expected each little girl always to put her best foot forward — literally and figuratively — on the dance floor and in life.
This particular day, after our warm-up positions and compulsory barre exercises, we were asked to form a line to practice feats like our grand jetés,tour en l'air, and pirouettes. This was the period in class where, individually, we would dance diagonally from one corner of the studio to another, and attempt to become 12- and 13-year-old Baryshnikovs. Some relished the opportunity to show their talents, and others detested it. I was the latter.
"One, two, three. One, two, three. Okay, ladies, let's begin!"
With that, our scrawny, swaybacked, blossoming bodies assumed the proverbial positions, and we began to take our turns jumping and gyrating with spirited, youthful energy. Some of the young girls were larger than life, defying gravity with their leaps, twists, and turns. They sprung high into the air with legs straight as needles and toes pointed into arched hooks, making their jeté jumps resemble those of Degas's dazzling, iconic dancers. Then came my turn. As I moved to the front of the line, my breath became fast and jagged, and I felt that tingly fear- inspired lightheadedness. As I leapt to the beat of the music, I envisioned effortlessly flying high. Up, up, and away I went, and within half a second — thud. I landed in a heavy heap in the middle of the large ballroom floor. I had landed on the side of my foot. My ankle had turned and instantly began to throb. Flustered, blood rushed to my face and tears into my eyes. All eyes were on the clumsy clump I had melted into. Without missing a beat, Miss Ann gave her baton to her assistant, and the line of pubescent ballerinas continued whirling and twirling. I limped to the dressing room with my head hanging and my confidence crushed. Miss Ann quietly followed.
"Now, now, Krista-belle, let's take a look," she said tenderly. After examining the slightly swollen ankle, she gently stroked my shoulder. "You are okay. This is just a small, little twist. In a few minutes it will be as good as new."
As I whimpered and sobbed with embarrassment, she continued. "Now, Krista-belle, there is no need for this. Everyone falls. The key is to get up. And you got up. Now, let's go back inside and try again."
There was no fanfare and no drama, just the expectation that I would go back inside and try again. Never wanting to disappoint her, I did exactly that. I wiped my eyes, brushed off the lint that clung to my black ballet tights, readjusted my shoes, and stepped back into line. As the notes of Tchaikovsky continued on, so did I.
From Where I Sit
* * *
"Miss Ann." Those two words conjure indelible memories of a gracious, graceful, and strong woman who taught and influenced countless young women in the course of her life. Those of us who were fortunate to have Miss Ann as our teacher and role model will remember her as the quintessential exemplar of what it meant to be a lady. For more than 35 years, Miss Ann taught us much more than just pliés,tour jetés, and arabesques.
She was a source of ever-present encouragement, always ready with an "atta girl" when we accomplished something we didn't know we could. As much through her actions as her words, Miss Ann taught us how to be ladies, and how to handle even the most challenging situations with grace and quiet courage. Her noble nudges to keep moving forward opened doors of perspective for us to walk through, whether it led to getting up from a failed ballet move or pursuing a job opportunity we thought was beyond reach.
For those of us fortunate to have studied tap, jazz, or ballet with her, we learned far more than just steps and technique. We learned self-confidence and built self-esteem. Her eternal refrain, "Chin up, shoulders back, tummy in, and bottom tucked under," is imprinted on each of us. And that instruction applies to every aspect of life, not just how our bodies stood as we held first position at the barre. Most importantly, she taught resiliency, strength, and devotion for what she believed in. We would see her every Sunday morning at the early service at church, in the pew across from ours. She was always there, perfectly coiffed and quietly demure. She never promoted or discussed her faith; she lived and demonstrated it throughout her life. Miss Ann organized and represented the Debutante Cotillion, which served much more than its traditional purpose as the first official coming out of young girls to society. It symbolized all that was proper and refined for young women as we graduated high school and embarked upon adult life. At that time, it was not merely a societal gateway for the rich and powerful, but a virtual stage, upon which we young girls would learn how to demonstrate kindness and carry ourselves into the world.
Miss Ann's legacy extends far beyond dance class. It can be found in the countless young girls, now women, who embraced the lessons she taught and are now passing them on to their own little girls. Her ripple effect will be felt for generations.
* * *
I Saved This Seat for You
What person may be teaching you lessons beyond the scope of their official role in your life?
What example are you setting for the younger people who cross your path?
What is grace to you?
Grace is a divine strength.
— Lailah Gifty Akita, Think Great: Be Great!(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Is This Seat Taken? No, I Saved It for You"
Copyright © 2019 Kristin Kaufman.
Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. One Little Girl Was Watching,
2. Miss Ann,
4. Gratitude for the Unexpected,
5. The Rookie's Revelation,
6. The Cracked Pot,
7. A Defining Detour,
8. Mary Poppins,
9. The Indispensable Bridge,
10. The Gift of Being Redirected,
11. One More Race,
12. Fireside Chats,
14. A Four-Legged Sage,
15. When the Light Dims,
16. Grandaddy's Lake,
Afterword: Living with the Questions,
A Thought and Activity Guide for Your Journey Toward Alignment,
Readings for Further Consideration,
About the Author,