Merlino & Gonzalez - March 2021

Take a look at the latest edition of In a Manor of Speaking!

March 2021





“How do we face hardships?” You’ll notice that many clients we ask to write our cover letters touch on that very question, and of course, this has become more relevant to everyone in the past year. Then again, hardship is always pretty relevant, and when that hardship is something like breast cancer — which will impact 1 in 8 women during their lives, not to mention the people who love them — there’s always a need for advice from those who have survived and come out stronger on the other end. Author Arlene Karole is one of those people. As someone who has worked with Merlino & Gonzalez in the past and has known Michele at their office for 30 years now, I was excited when they asked me to write a letter for this space. They were great to work with, and I’m especially happy to have this forum to talk about something that impacted my life so fundamentally. As John writes, breast cancer affects hundreds of thousands of women and some 2,300 men each year. I’m one of those women, and when I was first diagnosed five years ago, I was terrified. I remember needing information, but there was a void regarding what to do. Filling that void is a big part of why

I spent the next few years writing a book on the subject, “Just Diagnosed: Breast Cancer,” which is finally being published on Aug. 3, 2021. Unlike some women, my first sign of cancer was a pinprick of pain that I couldn’t account for. I felt that something was wrong, but two mammograms and an ultrasound later, the doctors still came up empty. “You must be fine,” they said. “But if your insurance will cover an MRI (which many won’t in the absence of other signs), we could do that and see.” For many women that would have been the end of it, perhaps until cancer metastasized. But I was fortunate to work for Northwell Health, an incredible system with stellar health insurance plans. Getting an MRI covered was no problem, and sure enough, as soon as they ran it, they saw what was going on.

So there I was, just diagnosed and terrified. What was I supposed to do in this situation?!

I’ve always been a frequent journaler, pretty much keeping a diary my entire life. It was a given that I’d document my experience with cancer through this kind of writing. Over time, though, I realized I might not be the

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Improve Your Attention Span And Transform Your Life!

Since the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world last year, many things have gotten shorter, like school days and our patience. But perhaps the main thing that’s grown shorter for all of us is our attention spans. In 2019, researchers from the Technical University of Denmark reported that our collective attention span is indeed narrowing — and it may be because we’re bombarded with tons of information that we don’t want to “miss out” on, whether we’re scrolling through Facebook or finding new videos on YouTube. Unfortunately, a poor attention span can affect us in many ways. It may impact our performance at school or work or cause communication difficulties in relationships. It may even result in poor health related to self-neglect and an inability to practice healthy habits.

Second, give the Pomodoro method a try. Named after a tomato- shaped timer that its creator used, the Pomodoro method has gained a lot of attention over the years as a brain workout, and it’s a great way to slowly expand your attention span while accomplishing tasks. To get started, think of a small task. Then, set a timer to 25 minutes (or longer, if your attention span will allow). Work on your task for 25 minutes straight. Then, take a five-minute break. After the break, repeat the process. After four rounds, take a break of 15–20 minutes. Congratulations, you’ve used the Pomodoro method, which you can repeat as many times as you want. It’s very handy for getting your tasks finished in a flash, despite any attention span issues! Third, meditate, work out, or adopt new educational interests. Anything that keeps your brain, body, and spirit engaged can help you learn how to focus better. There’s plenty of research that shows the benefits of meditation and exercise to your focus — the trick is exploration. Not every form of meditation, exercise routine, or hobby will work for you, so don’t give up right away! Stay curious and keep exploring. We’re living in a technological age where we can learn almost anything and reach almost anyone at the tap of a button, so we have to learn how to create opportunities for ourselves. We hope these tips help you get started!

How do you fix it? Is it even possible to improve your attention span? Yes, you can! But it will take time. Here are a few ways you can get started.

First, accept that you may make yourself a little mentally uncomfortable while expanding your attention span. It simply won’t feel natural to focus on a single task for a longer period of time than normal, but, with a routine, it’ll get more comfortable as time goes on.

Corn Dogs and Basketball AN AMERICAN TRADITION

It’s no coincidence that National Corn Dog Day is March 20 — the third Saturday of the month. This day is traditionally the first Saturday of March Madness, otherwise known as the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship. But wait. What do corn dogs and a basketball tournament have to do with one another? Turns out, National Corn Dog Day has everything to do with March Madness. The “holiday” began in March 1992 when two Corvallis, Oregon, high school students needed a snack while watching a basketball game. They got some corn dogs and called it good. But somehow, this simple snack and sport pairing turned into something huge. In fact, eating corn dogs while watching March Madness caught on like wildfire — and the teens didn’t even have Instagram to promote it! Though it’s not clear how, it spread across Oregon and eventually the rest of the country. It’s likely that people just heard about it from friends and family and thought it was a great idea.

and fried everything from cheese to bananas, but it

was the battered sausages that really stood out, and the corn dog was born. By the 1940s, the convenient creation had popped up at state fairs and drive-in restaurants all over the country. In 2012, in honor of the original Corn Dog Day, the then-governor of Oregon issued an official proclamation naming

March 17 National Corn Dog Day in the state. Several companies jumped on the bandwagon as well, including Foster Farms (a maker of frozen corn dogs, among many other meat products) and the Pabst Brewing Company. While it’s not an “official” national day recognized by the U.S. Congress, it’s celebrated with thousands of events every March. And it’s grown beyond its U.S. roots. An article printed in The Oregonian in 2009 revealed that National Corn Dog Day parties have been celebrated on nearly every continent — including Antarctica!

The corn dog, like basketball, is an American creation. In the 1920s, the creators toyed around with the idea of fried foods on a stick. They battered




For example, married couples hold property jointly in a manner that not only offers protection from creditors but also automatically transfers the property to the surviving spouse upon the first spouse’s death. But for single people, their assets are usually not jointly held and must be bequeathed in a will or trust and by the designation of beneficiary forms. Life insurance and certain pension/retirement accounts are examples of non-probate assets that transfer to the designated beneficiary directly upon death — without the need for court proceedings. Comprehensive estate plans not only plan for death, but they also plan for disability. Singles need a trusted person to take care of their financial affairs (i.e., pay the bills, etc.) in the event that they become incapable of doing it themselves. There are also medical powers of attorney that allow the agent to make decisions on the maker’s behalf if they become unable to do so themselves. Living wills allow the maker to list the medical treatments they would or would not want if they became terminally ill and unable to make their own health care decisions. Finally, a HIPAA authorization is a document that allows the release of your medical information to the person you designate. As you can see, an estate plan needs to be unique to the person it covers. For a plan like that — and answers to all of your questions — contact our offices at 718-698-2200.

Very often, estate planning and retirement planning go hand in hand. But before your estate planning attorney can customize an estate plan for you, you’ll need to provide a clear picture of your finances — including assets and liabilities. You also need to know how your property is held since that will impact transference to someone else now or after you’re gone. For single people, these processes might look a little different than you’d expect. Particularly important estate planning issues for singles are financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney/health care proxy, and last will and testament.

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only person who could benefit from those notes. After all, if I found solace in the writing of others, like Peggy Huddleston’s “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster,” perhaps others would find comfort in my own writings. This realization came about as the result of encouragement from people close to me — and the seed for my book was born. Writing took a few years, but knowing that I’d survived this disease meant I could survive writing a book, too! But, as any author will tell you, writing is only part of the battle. The book was finished long ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to find a publisher. “This is a great story,” one told me, “but it’s only about breast cancer, and we’d need more.” Comments like that were painfully common — but they also proved to me that women with my experience clearly didn’t have the representation they needed! At the end of the day, “Just Diagnosed: Breast Cancer” found its home, and I had an incredible amount of control over its design, marketing, and production, which is a rare experience for authors. I persevered because I don’t believe that my experience is unique. Far from it: It’s all too common. And that was why I needed to share this with the world — because I’m not the only woman who has just been diagnosed. I’m not the only person who has been afraid and confused. That happens every day, in fact, and if my own journey can help others, then all the better. You can find “Just Diagnosed: Breast Cancer” online at or on Amazon. My only hope is that it provides the kind of comfort that I myself desperately needed at one time in my life.

Inspired by


• 2 tbsp olive oil • 1 onion, chopped • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced • 4 cups broccoli, chopped to bite‑size pieces • 4 cloves garlic, minced • 5 cups jasmine rice, cooked and cooled • 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped • 2 tbsp soy sauce • Toppings of choice for serving (sliced green onions, sliced cucumber, chopped peanuts, lime wedges, Sriracha, etc.)


1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2–3 minutes, until softened. 2. Add the mushrooms and broccoli. Cook for 5–7 minutes, until the broccoli is tender. 3. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. 4. Finally, add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 3–4 minutes. 5. Remove skillet from the heat and stir in the peanuts and soy sauce. 6. Serve garnished with your toppings.

–Arlene M. Karole



394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314



718-698-2200 |


Author Arlene Chronicles Cancer Page 1

How to Improve Your Attention Span! A Match Made in Cornmeal Batter Heaven Page 2 Planning an Estate for Single People Tasty Thai Fried Rice Page 3 Meet This Life-Saving Rat From Cambodia Page 4


A metal detector can take anywhere from 1–4 days to detect land mines in the war-torn landscapes of Cambodia. However, a Gambian pouched rat named Magawa can detect them in 20 minutes. Magawa’s ability to sniff land mines has been lauded as “truly unique,” as he potentially saves hundreds of lives every day. Yet, he weighs a mere 2.75 pounds and is only 28 inches long. While that’s larger than your average rodent, Magawa is still light enough to safely step over land mines without setting them off. That’s been amazing news for Cambodians. The land mine problem began during the civil wars of the ‘70s and ‘80s, causing over 64,000 casualties and creating 25,000 amputees since 1979. But where did Magawa come from? A Belgium-registered charity named Apopo trained Magawa in Tanzania as part of the program HeroRATs where after a year of training, the animals become certified. This program has been around since the 1990s, teaching animals how to detect land mines and tuberculosis.

28 unexploded munitions in his career. His tremendous work has now been recognized worldwide. In 2020, the U.K. veterinary charity PDSA has given Magawa its gold medal for “life-saving devotion to duty, in the location and clearance of deadly land mines in Cambodia.” Over 30 animals have received this award so far, but Magawa is the first rat.

“To receive this medal is really an honour for us,” Apopo’s chief executive, Christophe Cox, told the Press Association news agency. “But also, it is big for the people in Cambodia, and all the people around the world who are suffering from land mines.” Now that’s a real hero if we’ve ever seen one. Thank you, Magawa, for all your hard work, and we hope you have a long and happy retirement ahead of you!

Magawa only works for a half-hour during the day, but as he nears retirement age at 7 years old, Magawa has sniffed out 39 land mines and 4

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