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Could you wind up homeless? Four ways to stay out of Tent City.

Ask any woman her secret fear–the one she hardly dares say aloud, let alone share with others–and I’ll bet you it’s this:  homelessness.  The specter of winding up alone on the streets, huddled under a plastic tarp,  haunts many women. But how likely is that to happen? Dr. Roslyn Samoshi, a Honolulu-based psychologist, sat with me recently.

Depending on where you live, your risk of homelessness is probably not equal to your fear, according to Dr. Samoshi. “Women who end up on the streets often didn’t know they had emergency options,” she says. In a worst-case scenario, you may have choices:

  1. Move in with family members
    Next time the issue of homelessness arises, steer it in your own direction.  Consider asking your family, “What if?” Assure your family that you’d take them in–would they do the same for you? You don’t need to extract actual promises. Your goal now is to get a realistic idea of support you can expect.
  2. Get a live-in position 
    Do you have carpentering or property  management experience? Have you done your share of remodeling, painting, and small repairs? You could work as a residential property manager for a condominium or apartment house. If you have experience with child– raising your own children counts–you could find work as a live-in nanny. If you have have a certified nursing assistant (CNA) license, you  will be in demand as an on-site caregiver. Expect to be asked for ironclad references.
  3. Use emergency housing
    Find out now if your community has free or low-cost housing, any income requirements, and how long you can expect to wait. Remember, your goal now is just to get a realistic view of options, if you wind up losing your home.
  4. Rent a bedroom
    Check websites such as roommates.com for opportunities to share a home. Depending on the homeowner, you may get only a bedroom with a shared bathroom and no kitchen or “house” privileges. Or you might be treated as a full  member of the household, free to use the living room, kitchen, yard, laundry facilities. Find out exactly what you’re getting for your money.

Of course it’s best to have a safety net to protect you from a loss of your home from foreclosure or eviction. Some important steps to take now:

Protect your income stream. An extended period of unemployment can quickly wipe out any savings you’ve accumulated.  If you’re laid off from your job, reconsider whether unemployment insurance is really the safety net you believe it is. If you’re not working, you’re not contributing to your Social Security account. That means your S.S. bank account won’t be as full as you’ll need for actually monthly expenses.

Instead of drawing benefits, you can better protect your future by obtaining a temporary job. Consider delivering pizzas or groceries, working in a coffee shop, waiting tables, product demonstrations, or signing up with a temporary employment agency.

4 myths about tanning: Don’t tell me you still believe these.

One of the nicest things about living in Hawaii is the abundant sunshine. But I quickly discovered: the very sun that blesses the islands with blissful warmth and light also increases your odds of developing skin cancer. Skin cancer is on the rise in all of the Hawaiian islands, according to Dr. Karen Yamamoto, a dermatologist in private practice in Honolulu.

In fact, among certain groups such as Caucasian women and Hispanic men, the rise is considered epidemic. Dr. Yamamoto and other experts blame on these on these enduring myths about tanning:

1. A base tan will protect your skin.
“This is completely false, says Yamamoto. “Tanned skin is damaged skin, period. So if you’re lying out at the swimming pool without protection, thinking you’re putting on some kind of skin glove, you’re kidding yourself. Later, you’ll just be piling on additional damage.” If your so-called base tan was acquired from a tanning bed, be worried. Each time you lay supine on those beds, you are significantly increasing your odds of developing skin cancer. Those UVA rays emitted from the beds are extremely powerful.

2. Skin cancer is largely a Caucasian disease.
Fair-skinned people of northern European descent are more likely to burn than other groups, but skin cancer strikes every population. Hispanics are developing skin cancer in the U.S. at a faster rate than any other population group, according to a Skin Cancer Foundation study.

3. You can’t burn on a cloudy day.
“Completely erroneous,” says Dr. Yamamoto. “You need sun protection all day, every day, year-round. Because of our close proximity to the equator, the sun over Hawaii is especially powerful.”

4. Using sunblock will deplete your body of Vitamin D.
This myth persists, according to the National Skin Cancer Foundation, because many northerners absorb less vitamin D during the winter months.  “But you still absorb the vitamin through your hair, scalp, and fingernails,” says Dr. Yamamoto. To be on the safe side, take a vitamin D supplement each day.

One Surprising Truth:

Skin cancer is usually curable.
If caught and treated in time, even the deadliest form of skin cancer can be treated successfully, according to the National Skin Cancer Foundation. Early detection is key. Check your body every month for moles that have grown or changed shape. If you’re over 30, schedule a professional skin consultation once a year. If you have a family history of skin cancer, have a dermatologist check your skin twice a year.

Wait a minute: Can distractions actually help your work?

imagesCATSDFHXWorking independently takes discipline. Everyone agrees. But now comes a study that claims interruptions–even maddening disruptions such as a nonstop ringing phone–can actually boost creativity. Okay, I’ll buy that. But how can constant intrusions help you complete your work on time? Short answer: They can’t.

Aside

Making rain.

hawaiibirdsRelocating to Hawaii wasn’t an easy choice. It meant choosing family, over  the familiar faces and places I loved in Seattle.

And my family needs to be here.

No surprise–Hawaii opened its warm skies, winds, and soft rain to us. I miss Seattle, but I love the islands.  I’m still writing and editing for my valued clients.

The world is small. My capabilities are large.

These are the days you were longing for all winter

Still to come.

Reading about the turmoil in Memphis and New Orleans–flooding, freezing temperatures–makes me feel guilty. But only for about a minute. After a long wet winter, spring roared into Seattle.  And suddenly flowers are everywhere.

Give to AmeriCares for flood relief in the South.  They’re a great organization. Very little money is spent on administration and fundraising; more than 90% of money raised goes to people in crisis.

Springtime in Seattle: Worth the wait!

View from my car window