[box]While we champion all aspects of mentoring here at Over My Shoulder Foundation we do not shy away from the sobering gravity of individuals that are existing in the depths of despair. By sharing stories like our feature today and the story of a reformed heroin addict we aim to give hope to the hopeless. Because that’s what mentoring does.

Today Arno Michaelis, speaker and author of My Life After Hate, shares his story in tribute to the woman that gave him hope to borrow. One woman changed the ENTIRE course of his life through a mentoring moment at a fast food joint. CNN calls his 4-minute story “Inside a Life of Hate” when recounting 7 years of his life as a white supremacist. “I’ve beaten people and left them for dead” says Michaelis. In that life, he says “there is no room for happiness, there is no room for joy.” This monstrous life was transformed with that woman’s mentoring into an inspiring mentoring story for us all.

The thing is, mentoring doesn’t have to be a long drawn-out process that spans weeks, months and careers. Mentoring can be accomplished in a moment. Every little effort to spread the power of mentoring is energy well-spent. 5 minutes was all it took for Mentorology to turn an extremely racist man into a force of change who mentors others in the practice of embracing diversity and gratitude. Countless people have been inspired to live more compassionately after hearing this story.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director[/box]

Dear nice old black lady at McDonald’s,

I think of you fondly and often, and I talk about you all the time.

You wouldn’t think that a cumulative 5 minutes of contact at a fast food restaurant over the course of a few weeks could help change the course of a life, and subsequently change the course of countless other lives, but that’s exactly what happened.

Our paths crossed during a time in my life when I radiated hostility, especially towards anyone with a darker complexion than mine. You demonstrated the courage necessary to respond to my ignorant, fearful aggression with compassion—from behind a cash register at McDonald’s.

I thought I knew all about courage back then. A zeal for violence and the willingness to engage in it at the slightest provocation was my idea of courage. Of course, I thought I knew all about everything. Via an ongoing practice of ignorance, fueled by hate and ego, I had managed to convince myself that white people were superior to everyone else, and that there was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy to wipe us out. I was terrified of the world around me, and confused enough to call that feeling of terror “courage”.

This miserable condition was plainly evident in my appearance. Covered with streetfight scars and homemade tattoos indicative of my angst, steel-toed boots and a shaved head completed the look that said, “I hate you” in no uncertain terms. The many people who crossed the street rather than pass me on the sidewalk were wise to do so. But that first time I walked into the McDonald’s where you worked, I was met with your smile, as warm and unconditional as the sun.

And I shrank in the light of that smile. Such a pathetic lost soul that a genuine smile made me quite uncomfortable. There I was very diligently trying to hate black people, and there you were making doing so seem as stupid as it is simply by smiling at me.

Having drowned the trauma of your smile in cheap beer and hate-rock over the course of a week, I was taken aback by your warm greeting upon my return, this time amplified with your recognition of me. When you asked me how I had been you might as well have asked me to solve Pi to the millionth digit. I was bewildered at the prospect of conversation with someone who wasn’t a violent white racist. Once again, I looked down at my boots, mumbled a strained response, and scurried off with my Big Mac as fast as I could.

That weekend I had a swastika tattooed on the middle finger of my right hand.

Strategically placed so that when someone responded to my aggression with some of their own I could show it to them before closing that hand into a fist and hitting them. Willfully ignorant of the wrongness steeped into the swastika during the Holocaust, all I thought of was the cheap thrill of offending people.

But when I walked into McDonald’s for that third payday Big Mac, you took no offense.

Instead you smiled, and asked how was my day, and if I was going to have a Big Mac again, and you remembered that I drank Diet Coke. Thoughtless, I had managed to forget my discomfort with your past kindness. I would have chosen another restaurant for my one meal a week that wasn’t ramen noodles, which I ate otherwise to conserve drinking money.

At 6’3” tall, I towered almost a foot above you, but I felt about six inches tall as it dawned on me that I didn’t want you to see the swastika. As the ancient symbol hijacked by hate was needled into my finger the Saturday before, I relished the idea of it being the exclamation point on my ongoing flip-off to the world. I sloshed and stumbled around the city, showing my middle finger con swastika to anyone unfortunate enough to encounter me.

I tried hard to keep my hand behind my back, and awkwardly dug into my front pocket palm-up to fish a $20 fresh from the check-cashing place to pay for my meal. But as the money went from my hand to yours, the swastika was revealed.

The look in your eyes for the split-second they met mine before I shamefully looked away is still clear as day over two decades later. It was the same look my grandma gave me when I used to torment my poor little brother. A look that said, “I love you, but let’s stop this foolishness.”

“What is that on your finger?” you said, gently but firmly.

“…it’s nothing.”

I should have said, “I’m nothing”, as that’s how I felt for coming before you with such disrespect.

“You’re a better person than that. I know that’s not who you are.”

Powerless against such compassion, such engagement with the human being I was despite my best efforts, I snatched my food from the counter and my change from your steady hand, and fled from your steady smile and authentic presence, never to return to your McDonald’s again.

It would have been nice if that experience of humanity changed me on the spot, but it didn’t. I went back to my dingy house and got drunk out my mind, blasting white power music with my white power buddies, and slurring some nonsense about Jews taking my money from my paycheck and giving it to lazy black people. We set out on the streets to find someone to beat up. People were beaten that night, and throughout the next seven years, for no reason other than the color of their skin, their assumed homosexuality, their religion, or just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yet a seed was planted in my heart that day you saw it behind the swastika. A seed hardy enough to take root and sprout in the desolation of fear and ignorance. The seedling grew, attracting like seeds. Together with my family that refused to give up on me, and my daughter who needed me, the kindness of peace warriors like yourself brought love to my life until there was no longer room for hate.

Today I share this ongoing process of learning and growth. Over the past three years, I have had face-to-face contact with over 7000 people, and exponentially more via media worldwide. A nonagenarian black man once told me that I gave him hope. An eleven year-old Latino boy told me he could see how bad I felt for hurting people and that he felt sorry for me. Gay men and Jewish women call me brother. Countless lives were involved leading me to where I am now, and countless people have been inspired to live more compassionately after hearing my story.

A story that couldn’t be quite the same if you weren’t in it.

Thank you.

with love and gratitude,

[box]If you like Over My Shoulder Foundation, please SHARE your mentoring stories, consider donating to our non-profit and don’t forget to follow Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too, especially this January during National Mentoring Month.[/box]

[box]Kay Goldstein has enjoyed a multifaceted career that includes professional work as a psychotherapist, chef/entrepreneur, author, poet and meditation teacher. She is married and has two grown children. Kay enjoys a variety of leisure activities that include photography, kayaking, gardening, cooking and theater. Star Child, published in 2012 is her second book and first fiction story.

Today Kay is being interviewed by Shannon Smith, a youngster from Boston, MA. You know what? This isn’t the first time that Over My Shoulder Foundation has handed the reigns over to a young inquiring mind and gotten amazing results. Remember when 7-year-old Carly Ann Connors did a mentoring interview with American Idol contestant Ayla Brown? These interviews demonstrate how the Mentorology cycle makes magic for those involved, the mentor (traditionally older) becomes the mentee…

Enjoy this interview.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director[/box]

“I have always believed that  the things we say and do in the presence of a young person can have great impact, even years later and even when we have long forgotten the encounter. We never know, as we live our lives and draw from our many experiences, how we can be of real help to others. But we must try to remember that our attention and focus in the presence of another can be a real gift.” 

-Kay Goldstein on Mentoring

Shannon Smith: Hello my name is Shannon Smith from Boston,Massachusetts. I am here to ask you about your wonderful and inspiring mentoring book, Star Child. Questions like: why you wrote it, what is love. This book is a really wonderful and inspiring book.  It made me feel like everyone is special in their own way. I really want to know, what message do you want people to get from this book?

Kay Goldstein: I loved getting your request and hearing how much you felt inspired by Star Child. You obviously got the main point, which is that everyone is special in their own way and that our purpose is to find our true selves and express those gifts.

I wrote the book because I was inspired by the characters who sort of arrived in my imagination in moment of inspiration- and totally unexpectedly. I then found that I loved the images of world that was flowing onto the page. I liked being in my own imagination and was constantly surprised by what happened. I also thought it was a great way to think about important questions about life and reflect some of the things I had been learning. But mostly I wrote it because I loved doing that.


What is love? I don’t think I have all the words necessary to describe it. Love is bigger than all the words put together.  It is the driving energy /force of the universe. Love is most powerful when allowed to flow freely from our hearts. It then connects to everything  and everyone.


This book was based on love, compassion and soul mates do you personally have an experience like this?

I am fortunate to have many experiences of feeling unconditional love and acceptance and compassion. Many people have shown me how to find this: some were formal teachers, others were family members, others were friends or even strangers. I think that the most important thing is that we learn to feel unconditional love and compassion for ourselves.

About soulmates: Terra and Marius were obviously very powerfully connected from the beginning. But what the story shows is that they learn to be fully themselves before they can freely offer themselves in relationship to the other.  Every relationship has the potential to teach us new things about ourselves and can therefore have meaning. Sometimes relationships feel very negative and we can learn something from that too.  One of my wise teachers once said, “a Soul does not need a mate.” I think that may be true, but I also believe that some relationships help bring us closer to our true self than others. The closer we are to living as our best self, the more likely we are to find others to support that journey.

As for my personal journey, I have been married for 42 years. I can’t honestly say that my husband is or is not my soulmate. But I know that I am constantly learning something from this relationship and that it continues to grow in a loving way. I feel clearly that our relationship was meant to be.


The girl “Terra” in this book takes care of and helps a couple. How did you come up with this?

Terra’s relationship with the old couple reminds me of times when I grew up in my grandfather’s house. I used to help him in his workshop and I loved sewing and being useful. I did not purposely try to incorporate this into the story, but it was easy to draw on my own experience and sweet to remember how much I liked doing those things. I have also been a caretaker of others as they aged.


What inspired/drove you to become an author and your other occupations?

That is a good question. There are times I wondered myself. Since I have had many careers and jobs, one would have to wonder why I kept changing and evolving. Each time I made a change in my work, it was because something really drew me to it. When I stopped practicing as a psychotherapist and became a full time cook and food entrepreneur, it was because I loved doing it and found a way to really express my creativity. But I used the skills I had learned previously to help manage employees and the stresses of running a business.

Later I sold my business when I had small children and found it impossible to do both without burning out. Each time I thought I was changing my self image and public identity along with my career. But something about me and how I look at and interact with the world never really changed. Looking back, I see now how everything I have done has led me to this particular juncture in my life: writing and talking about the challenges and meaning of life here on Earth.


Why did you pick these characters to take place in this book?

I think the characters picked me 😉  Some were drawn from my life experience, but sometimes they just appeared on the page when I was writing. It can happen when we let go and just let our imaginations take over.


Do you want this book to help other children’s lives? What do you mostly want them to get from reading this book?

I do hope that young people find comfort and inspiration from this book and can use it as a kind of roadmap to remind them of ways to travel on their life journey. I think though that that only thing I really know about this book right now is the joy and love I felt in writing it. I hope all my readers experience some of that.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions about your inspiring book, Star Child.

I am so happy to be able to answer your questions about Star Child and the process of writing the book. From beginning to end, from the first moment of inspiration to the day of publication, was more than 15 years! That seems like an awfully long time to be writing such a simple and relatively short book. But it believe that it took that long for me to be able to both understand the purpose of the book and to become simple enough to write it 🙂

Are you inspired by an author, a teacher, a friend? Tell us how they mentored you! Please SHARE your mentoring stories with Over My Shoulder Foundation, consider donating to our non-profit and don’t forget to follow Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too, especially this January during National Mentoring Month.


[box] Patti Austin, Over My Shoulder Foundation co-founder and Grammy Award winning singing legend, reflects on her design mentors. Look out, she’s going to get awards for her design work pretty soon![/box]

This article appeared originally on Patti’s website.

I couldn’t say goodbye to 2012 without reflecting on all my magical DESIGN mentors in Boston who graciously shared their time, wisdom and expertise and helped mentor me as I pursued learning more about my passion of Interior Design.

Enjoy this amazing video that designers Leslie Fine owner of Leslie Fine Interiors and Rosemary Porto from the luxurious kitchen design firm Poggenpohl had made for our Over My Shoulder Foundation last June…


And you must see this amazing video that was shot at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Boston showroom on Thank Your Mentor Day last January…

Lastly, I would like to thank my friend and Over My Shoulder co-founder Dawn Carroll and her company Cumar Marble & Granite for mentoring me!

January is National Mentoring Month… Who mentored you? Who is your navigator? Go to Over My Shoulder Foundation or visit our Facebook page and tell us your story!

If you like Over My Shoulder Foundation, please SHARE your mentoring stories, consider donating to our non-profit and don’t forget to follow Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too, especially this January during National Mentoring Month.


[box] Lois Alter Mark is a writer making her impact in the world through StyleSubstanceSoul, the blog she publishes with her two best friends. They say that style, substance and soul combine in amazing ways to create the eSSSence of a woman. They have coined eSSSence in the same way that Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) has coined MENTOROLOGY.

Both those words have taken on their own lives and now exist in a web of magnetic meaning. Both those words become action-initializing and thought-provoking reasons to fight for a cause and shout from the rooftops why the concepts are important. Today we give you a glimpse into the life and world of the dynamic and inspiring Lois Alter Mark.[/box]


So, Lois, what was the pivotal moment when you, Amy and Susan decided to launch your website?

Four years ago, the three of us were disgusted with what was happening in the world – yes, it was an election year! — and we decided it was time to stop shouting back at the TV and actually do something. We wanted to set a good example for our then-teenage daughters (and son!), and show them they had the power to make a difference in the world by taking action and making their voices heard. We started StyleSubstanceSoul specifically because we believe in the power of women to get things done and we knew if we could build a strong community of women, we could make an impact.

Amy Krause, Lois Mark, Susan Jensen

Amy, Lois and Susan – Creators of the Website StyleSubstanceSoul


We define Mentorology as “the art and science of mentoring” here at Over My Shoulder Foundation. Do you think that there is an art and a science behind the eSSSence of a woman?

I think there’s probably more of an art to “style,” a science to “substance” and a spirituality to “soul.” You need all three to be complete. Our tagline is “look good, feel good, do good,” and each of those is a very important component of being a woman. The “do good” aspect is the one that’s most important to us – and the one that sets us apart from other sites – but it’s really the individual way style, substance and soul combine that makes up the essence of a woman.


Out of over 100,000 applicants, you were selected to go to Australia with Oprah. What was it like meeting Oprah? Can you boil down the eSSSence of how her work has mentored your own?

 I was chosen as an Ultimate Viewer after writing about how Oprah had inspired and mentored me over the past 25 years, with StyleSubstanceSoul being the most tangible expression of that. Oprah is all about “living your best life,” and that’s what we try to help women do with StyleSubstanceSoul. Just like Oprah, we feature our favorite things and lots of books and authors but, most importantly, we also showcase women who are involved in charitable projects, we introduce readers to causes and we offer easy ways to do good. For example, in our Click a Day section, you can just click a few buttons and, without any cost or even getting off your couch, you provide free mammograms to women who can’t afford them, help save the rainforests and protect endangered animals. It’s so simple. We also started a flip flop recycling project, Formerly Flip Flops, where readers would send us old flip flops and we’d forward them on to UniquEco, an award-winning company in Africa which upcycles them into jewelry and pieces of art, keeping them out of landfills and building a sustainable economy in Nairobi. In our Shop with a Conscience section, we feature small, women-owned businesses that are eco-friendly or socially-conscious, or that re-use, recycle or give back in some way.


I am overwhelmed that Oprah acknowledged StyleSubstanceSoul, and it’s still surreal that the three of us got to accompany her on the trip of a lifetime. Meeting her was amazing. She is exactly who you think she is – warm, down to earth, real. When you talk to her, she locks eyes with you, listens closely and asks questions that make you feel she really hears you. She is so generous – and I don’t mean what she gives away. One afternoon, she made a speech to all of us, saying that nobody was there by mistake, that she knew every person’s story and that each one of us was there for a reason. That was so powerful to me because there I was, thinking that all these other people had overcome huge obstacles and struggles, and all I did was start a website for women. I will always be grateful for her words, for the amazing people I met on the trip and for the extraordinary experience.


Lois won the People’s Choice Award in the Op-Ed category of the 2012 BlogHer Voices of the Year ceremony for her story, “It’s Time To Re-Think Pink”. Cancer is actually the thread that tied Dawn to Lois in the first place. Dawn’s friend Johanna was diagnosed with stage IV of a rare EGFR rare cancer mutation. Johanna started a campaign called Put a Cork in Cancer for its cure – starting with her own roots in Boston’s restaurant industry. Lois, where are your roots? And how do they affect the work you are doing now?

My roots lie in a close-knit family from New York City, where I was raised by liberal, hard-working parents who always encouraged me to follow my dreams and help others. They made me believe that anything was possible, and that I had nothing to lose by trying. Thankfully, I have no personal ties to cancer but when I read Johanna’s story, I knew I had the power to help spread her story and her cause. That’s what we try to use StyleSubstanceSoul for – to make women aware of what’s going on out there and what they can do to help. I believe people in general want to do something to make the world a better place, but they don’t know what to do. If they can do something as easy as donating corks, we’ve given them a practical, manageable action that will make a difference. I was very proud of winning the People’s Choice Award because it meant people were actually reading the piece and learning new ways to look at and donate to breast cancer charities.


You’ve built a multifaceted career including work as contributing writer for the Huffington Post, Flicks for Kids Editor on NickJr.com and the co-author of Wonderplay. What is it that you are most proud of?

I’m most proud of the incredible community we’ve built with StyleSubstanceSoul.com. Our readers are doers, and there’s nothing more rewarding than when they email us to tell us how they’ve taken action after reading something we’ve written. We’ve had teachers start their own flip flop recycling programs, and readers become mentors in the Afghan Women’s Writing Program. Readers have sewn dresses out of pillowcases for girls in Africa and collected toiletries for girls in need here in San Diego. They’ve written letters to politicians and boycotted companies selling sexist t-shirts. The list goes on and on, and this is how change happens.


Can you tell us a little bit about how mentoring has impacted your life, and how you can envision mentoring growing in the future?

When I was getting my master’s degree in public relations at Boston University, I did an internship at Sack Theaters and was mentored by Sherry Natkow, who became a close and dear friend. I spend time with her every time I go back to New York. She is smart and creative and compassionate, and I still learn so much from her. I’ve tried to do that for other women in every job I’ve held, and hope we are doing that through StyleSubstanceSoul.com. I am a huge believer in the importance – and power – of paying it forward. In fact, Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx, was a big inspiration for us when she was on The Oprah Show years ago, and we would love to have her as a personal mentor. Just throwing that into the universe – hey, as my parents always taught me, it’s worth a try!

 Thank you, Lois, for the time you spent with us in this interview about Essence, Mentoring and Writing.

If you like Over My Shoulder Foundation, please SHARE your mentoring stories, consider donating to our non-profit and don’t forget to follow Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too, especially this January during National Mentoring Month.

[box] In these first few weeks of the New Year the gyms are packed, runners are everywhere (even in the cold!) and to-do lists are mastered. Mentors help us make and keep our resolutions year round, and that is just one of the many reasons we are here to bring mentoring stories and events to you and your circle of friends and family.

Please enjoy these thoughts today, from Blü who urges us to welcome the new year. Jennifer “Blü” DESIGNED her words to be read along with the MUSIC of Helen Jane Long, specifically, the extended version of the song The Aviators. It’s a wonderful experience to listen and read, so let the sounds and words MENTOR you by listening and reading at the same time.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director[/box]


The Music – by Blü

written to Helen Jane Long’s song The Aviators (extended version)    

 As the evening dissolves into the last of 2012, I am called to remember the past 365 days. I am beckoned like the moon to the night sky to count the stars of my successes and failures. These keys begin to fashion themselves into the chorus of my mind, reaching out to explain and examine my life, as if in accounting for the events which have brought me here I will discover their truth.  However, before I can even begin to determine what truth is, I must first define where success and failure reside.


So what does it mean to be successful?  Is it adorations?  Is the complement of hands in a wave of symphonic applause? or is it the sunsets of days well lived?  And what of failures?  How are they defined? Are they the silent shadows cast after long expectations extinguish in the bright light of a new direction? Are they the will unmoved by the simplicities of knowing the path but not taking it?  And who am I to define them? Is some measure of friendship or great work the definition I seek to be what I long to be?  Is stepping out against the angst of my nature to leave at the curb the dust of my past the way to discover who I am?


I, honestly, cannot give you an answer which will suit you.


And as I write this, I can never be sure the answers to these questions. What I can say, is all of this is part of the journey to a life well lived. Successes and failures dance in a song of our own making.  The music is our dreams and the dreams of others woven in a tapestry of searchings and longings played about on the stardust of our attempts. In this music, we are the instruments, the resounding – the re-sounding, of every moment of try.  Every moment of doubt and every willingness to risk all lingers in the halls of our minds and into the universe of all we encounter. Will we hit all the notes in perfect pitch or is perfection the evidence of a life un-risked?  Who am I to tell you what success and failures are?  Who am I but a poet and a writer, a believer, a dreamer, a hoper, a stumbler, a fist-shaker?  Who am I but who I choose every day to be? and just as a drop of rain cannot determine where it will land, only that it will quench whatever place it comes to rest… so can I never know how my life will mix in the great melody of our days.


But what I can say, and what I can know, is with every moment, every breath taken in, I have the choice to be what each day calls of me.  I can step out against fear and doubt to risk making mistakes to make the world, my world… our world… a bit better. Sometimes the music played will be triumphant, other times quickened and outpaced by chords gone awry, and still others slow and steadily noted as it paces to a quiet end.


And now as I think of it, the only true failure would be to not play. To extinguish every action in the swell of no action, no words, no writing.


So these are my words to myself, and to you.  We are but stars, noted out in the grand universe of our makings.  And no matter what happens in the next 365 days, it is our choice to shine… or sing… or write… or play,… or dance… speak, create, love, gather, share, long suffer, trudge forward or to not.   We are the music.  Let us find the song and rejoice in all of its wondrous cords – successes and failures.  Let us make the music to tell our stories and be who we are called to be.  Let us put away doubt and fear.  Let us embrace each other, lift up when one is down, reach out when needed, comfort when called, and dance in the storms.  For in these things, we become the music.


We are…  the music.


Welcome 2013 may your symphony be….   as it should.

If you liked this post you can find more from Blu on her blog or on Facebook.

If you like Over My Shoulder Foundation, please SHARE your mentoring stories and find Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too – especially during National Mentoring Month in January.