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Melissa Lichtman: An Unexpected Surprise
What do you do when, as a business owner, you find someone uniquely qualified for your office, but you weren’t planning on hiring anyone? That was our situation a year ago when paralegal Melissa Lichtman’s resume hit our desk. We only had one position to fill, but then we got an unexpected surprise. It looked like Melissa would be a great fit for our firm, someone who could help the whole office — but especially with elder law and estate planning. Well, I don’t know about you, but one year later my recommendation is that you hire that person immediately! That’s what we did, and Melissa has been such an addition that I wanted to spotlight her in this month’s newsletter. Melissa is terrific with our clients, developing immediate rapport with everyone she works with. It’s easy to feel good when you’re around her — a feeling I suspect you’ll understand once you meet her in person! I’d heard of Merlino & Gonzalez and a few people who worked there, but I wasn’t actively looking for a job. I’d been a paralegal for almost a decade, after a 25-year career in real estate. At the time I lived on Staten Island, so having a job there was appealing. Still, I was surprised when the firm called me up and made an “offer I couldn’t refuse!” One thing I love about the office at Merlino & Gonzalez is how organized and squared-away everything is. I’m an organized person myself, but I don’t always see that trait in others. After I started working here, I noticed how well they’d thought everything out: they have systems for everything , which makes things flow very well and ensures nothing gets forgotten or missed. For someone like me, that was a breath of fresh air.
But the thing I most appreciate about this firm is how kind — and competent — everybody is. My coworkers are good people who all pull their own weight. And we’re being led by two great, funny, wonderful guys, an attitude that trickles down to the rest of the office. Furthermore, everyone at the firm really cares about our clients. Whether I’m working with John and Ken on real estate or just with Ken on elder care law and estate planning, we never forget who we’re working for and why that work matters. I suspect that at first the other people in the office knew me for my love of ’80s music before they knew me as a person. I’m always listening to Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, or other hits of that decade. I like having this music in the background while I get work done — unless I’m with a client, of course! I’m glad they waded through the music to get to know me, and I feel like we have really great relationships now that I’ve been here for about a year. I may have been surprised to get this job offer, but I’ve come to find out they were surprised to see my resume and how well I’d fit with the firm. I’d say that surprise has paid off big-time for me, and I’m glad to hear they feel the same way! When I’m not at work you’ll find me cooking at home, spending time with my almost-grown boys, or curled up watching Netflix. My favorites are “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” but I’ll watch anything that puts me on the edge of my seat! Thanks to Ken and John for spotlighting me this month and for being such great guys to work for. I can’t wait to see what the future years will hold at Merlino & Gonzalez.
Be a Better Listener for Someone Who Needs to ‘Get It All Out’
It’s not always easy to share feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, or other strong emotions — but it’s healthy to share them. Sometimes, we need to vent and get it all out. Venting gives us an opportunity to release these emotions, which often leads to mental clarity.
Billikopf also notes that, as a listener, it’s important to avoid interjecting. Don’t offer input, suggestions, or guidance to the person venting until after the person has had the chance to get it all out. “During this venting process, there is still too much pressure for a person to consider other perspectives,” Billikopf says.
However, when someone comes to you to vent and share their heavy emotional burden, listening can be just as challenging as sharing. You want to be supportive, but you don’t want to interfere. Strong feelings and tough situations may be involved. What can you do to be the listener they really need? It starts with your body language. Open yourself to their emotional needs. Gregorio Billikopf, an interpersonal relationship expert at the University of California, Berkeley says if you begin the conversation standing, invite the person to have a seat with you.
While you don’t want to interject, you do want to be an active listener. This means you don’t want to be completely silent. This is where “reflective listening” comes in. Occasionally repeat what the speaker says — but don’t use their exact phrasing. Reword slightly in a sympathetic manner. Don’t spin their words or mistakenly interject an opinion, as it may not be the opinion they’re interested in hearing. Alternatively, listening cues like “mm” or “hm” and nods are always welcome.
One last thing to keep in mind: You do not need to offer a solution to the person’s problem or concerns. They may just be venting to get their negative emotions out, not looking for answers or explanations. If they are looking for answers or guidance, wait for them to ask. In the meantime, lend your ear and let them know you’re there for them going forward.
Another thing you can do as a listener is position yourself below their eye line. This puts the person venting in a more active “storyteller” position and you in a better “listener” position. While in this position, maintain eye contact. It’s okay to look down or away occasionally, but try to keep steady eye contact.
3 Laws Named After People THAT ALL AMERICANS SHOULD KNOW Perusing a list of federal laws may read like a yearbook of crime history. Bills introduced in Congress are often named after the victims of horrific crimes, greed, and exploitation to honor those victims. Below are three such laws. Each has made a lasting impression on society and culture. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was signed in 2006 — 25 years after 6-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a Florida shopping mall. Adam’s body was found 16 days later, and his father’s reaction to his son’s horrific death impacted generations of victims. His father, John Walsh, went on to create the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and hosted the popular TV show “America’s Most Wanted” for 23 years. The act created a three-tiered categorization for sex offenders, designated requirements for registering as a sex offender, and included a provision that requires offenders to report their whereabouts. The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act Boxing is a tradition that stretches back to the early Egyptians, but it wasn’t until 1999 that Congress took action to protect these heavyweight fighters from greed and exhaustion. The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act — known as the Ali Act — sought to protect boxers from promoters who took advantage of sports bets to make a quick buck. Experts identified many
unethical business practices that put boxers in danger and stripped them of their rights to payment. The act was signed into law on May 26, 2000. Though it bears the name of famed boxer Muhammad Ali, there are no explicit ties to him, but the boxer did fervently support the bill in Congress. Kari’s Law In 2013, Kari Hunt Dunn was killed by her estranged husband in a hotel room in Texas. Her daughter, who witnessed the event, knew to call 911 but was unaware that she had to dial 9 first to make an outbound call. Kari’s parents sought to change that by advocating for Kari’s Law, which was introduced in the Texas legislature in 2015. The law was signed into effect nationwide in 2018. It mandates that hotels, businesses, and other multi-line phone operating systems can no longer require dialing a 9, or any other number, prior to making a 911 call.
LETTERS OF INSTRUCTION Putting Your Affairs in Order Is Just the First Step
A comprehensive estate plan will include a last will and testament, sometimes a trust, and often other recommended documents that plan for incapacity, such as powers of attorney, health care proxies, and living wills. Among other benefits, these documents allow people to control how their assets will be distributed or managed after they’re gone. But there are other pieces of advice and information people want to provide to those who will be managing their affairs or raising their young children in the event that something happens to them. That’s where a letter of instruction comes into play.
A letter of instruction is a letter intended to help those who will be managing your affairs after you die or become disabled. It covers all of the small but important details that are not a part of your will that your designated people will need to know. They’re help for communicating the following:
• Information regarding social media and online accounts, including usernames and passwords and how you want those accounts maintained or closed Letters of instruction are useful for communicating anything you think would help make things easier for those taking over, and they ensure things happen in the way you would’ve wanted. This includes explanations of decisions in your estate plan in order to clarify or mitigate hurt feelings, how your bills are paid, where important documents are located, and who should be notified about your death. These letters should be updated periodically as things change. If you would like to create a letter of instruction or need help with other parts of your estate plan, the experts at Merlino & Gonzalez can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
• Priorities to trustees of minor beneficiaries or managing money
• Health and education information and goals to guardians of minor children to ease the transition • Information for a special needs trustee regarding the beneficiary’s disability, daily routines, medications, favorite activities, likes, and dislikes, among other things
• Information on a pet’s likes and dislikes for the person entrusted with its care
take a break
FESTIVE APPLE CIDER MICHELE’S RECIPE CORNER
If you’re cutting back on calories, skip the eggnog and buttered rum this year and fill up your mug with this delicious mulled cider!
• 1 lemon • 1 gallon pure apple cider • 1 large orange, thinly sliced crosswise • 2 tsp whole cloves
• 2 tsp allspice berries • 1 inch fresh ginger, thinly sliced • 2 tbsp honey • 3 cinnamon sticks
1. Using a paring knife, shave the lemon peel off in curls. Reserve the curls and save the lemon for use in a different recipe. 2. In a large slow cooker, combine the lemon peel with all other ingredients. Cook on low for 3–4 hours. 3. If desired, use a sieve to strain the spices. Serve and enjoy!
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
What to Do With an Unexpected Surprise? Page 1 How to Be a Better Listener for Someone in Need The Story Behind 3 Laws Named After People Page 2
Why You Need a Letter of Instruction Festive Apple Cider Page 3
5 Ways to Make Your Holiday Extra Eco-Friendly This Year Page 4
Sustainability is the gift that keeps on giving, so if you’d like to give a gift to the environment this December, make your holidays anti-plastic! Here are five ways that you can use the latest eco-friendly technology to make sure your Christmas is just as convenient as ever. Set up recycling bins. Nobody wants to sort through trash on their holiday, especially if you’re hosting all the parties! To avoid dealing with the waste, set up recycling and composting bins before any home holiday festivities. It’ll make your next trip to a local recycling center so much faster because everything will be organized and easier to manage. Use paper containers for leftovers. Give your celebration a restaurant-from-home feel by storing and giving away leftovers in paper containers rather than plastic. Paper will dissolve and leave behind much less chemical residue than plastic. Want to make it look extra posh? Stamp the exterior with the family initials! Change up your gift wrap. Why use wrapping paper every year when you can make your packaging extra interesting, colorful, and creative? Use newspapers, magazines, comics, posters, maps, or even art by your kids to conceal your gifts this year. 5 Ways to Make Your Holiday Extra Eco-Friendly This Year
Rent, borrow, or rethink your tableware. If you’re missing proper tableware for your holiday celebration, don’t despair — some companies will actually let you rent out their dishes for your special evening! You can also borrow tableware from friends and family. But you don’t have to use metal tableware. Try following another culture’s customs and serve your food on local ingredients, like palm leaves, coconuts, or wood. Localize as much as possible. If you can buy ingredients like fresh meat or vegetables from local farms, you won’t use as much plastic packaging and you’ll support small businesses at the same time! Never buy one-use plastics if you don’t have to. For every holiday tradition, ask yourself: Can I reduce, reuse, or recycle any components to this? We hope you have a happy, eco-friendly holiday!
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