Highly Sensitive Person (Oh, that explains it!!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

After posting My Introverted Child (which is by far my most popular post) I received quite a few suggestions to read The Highly Sensitive Person.  I put it off, choosing instead to read several books about the Holocaust (I'm such a downer lately!) But when my landscape designer said she could sense that I was a highly sensitive person (HSP) and that I should read the book, I took it as a sign!

An HSP is a person whose nervous system is extremely sensitive to stimuli and is therefore easily overwhelmed in stimulating situations.  Take this HSP self test and see if you are one of the 15-20% who are, too!  I took this test, and checked EVERY SINGLE item.  I'm HSP to the extreme.

Learning that I'm a HSP explains so many of my quirks.  Like these... 

1.  I fall asleep when I watch action movies (and I rarely watch action movies).  My high school boyfriend tried to show me The Matrix at least 2 times, and I fell asleep both times.  Just too stimulating, my body decided to shut down.

2.  I zone out a lot. I used to think this was because I'm an airhead (I do get accused of this, even though I was always a straight A student), but actually it's my brain's way of filtering out stimuli.  If you see a glazed look on my face, you now know what is going on.  Please don't be offended.  

3.  I love studying in coffee shops.  Perfect level of stimulation, not too much, not too little.  Very predictable environment, and usually no one talks to me unless I want them to.

4.  I'm one of the first to leave a party (even though I probably had a blast!)  

5.  I am irrationally afraid of getting in trouble.  Even in high school, I would burst into tears if a teacher reprimanded me.  

6.  I hate sitting at the sushi bar- I'd rather be at a table where I am not being watched.  Sucks for Joe, who loves talking directly to the sushi chef about what is fresh.

7.  I am really bad with names and faces.  Especially faces.  I know Mindy Kaling believes that this is B.S.:“I don’t think it should be socially acceptable for people to say they are “bad with names.” No one is bad with names. That is not a real thing. Not knowing people’s names isn’t a neurological condition; it’s a choice. You choose not to make learning people’s names a priority. It’s like saying, “Hey, a disclaimer about me: I’m rude.” 
― Mindy KalingIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

 I love Mindy, but I totally disagree with her assumption.  I am not rude, and I do care about people.  I just get so overwhelmed in situations where I have to meet new people, that it's hard to process and remember names and faces right away.  But once I get to know you a little better in a calmer situation, I'll never forget you.  You've got a friend for life.

8.  I have a strong aversion to speaking on the phone. This might be just an introvert thing. I read too much into the tone and subtleties of peoples' voices and I get overwhelmed. I'm receiving too much information, and it's especially disorienting because I can't triangulate what I'm hearing with the person's facial expressions. Also, the pace of phone conversations tends to be faster than face-to-face, requiring me to think and speak more quickly, which is sometimes hard for me.  I love face to face time, in a calm peaceful environment.

9.  I LOVE dancing (ballet and hip hop are my favorites) but dancing in a big crowd at a club or wedding is only fun for about 5 minutes.  Then I want to go home and read.  

10.  I never did well at dance auditions where I had to learn and perform a routine on the spot.  I always did great if I had just one night to go home to my familiar surroundings and practice on my own.

11.  Coffee makes me crazy!  I'm super sensitive to the effects of caffeine (mood swings, anxiety, digestive issues, jitters) and had to switch to decaf.  HSPs tend to be really sensitive to caffeine.

12. I was a HORRIBLE waitress.  For the two miserable weeks that I worked at Norms 24 Hour diner, I was a shaky mess who could never remember peoples' orders.  I quit, and felt ashamed that I, a straight A student, could not manage to survive a job at Norms.

13.  I think about my thinking a lot.  Which is pretty much what this entire post is!

Are you an HSP?  I'd especially love to hear from an HSP who is also an extravert (they do exist! It's just more rare.)  


Our New Water-wise Garden!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I've been waiting 4 1/2 years to replace our crummy, crappy, wasteland of a yard.  Not typically one to hire outside help, I've made a few half-hearted attempts to spruce it up in the past.  Every few years, I'd spend a few hundred dollars to plant a couple trees or plants or even a veggie garden, but since I had no real vision or horticultural experience, my meager attempts looked downright silly. And then I'd forget to water,  and then they shriveled up and died an aphid infested death.  Not super encouraging.

This was the magical year we decided to hire an actual landscape designer and invest in a nice garden.  Someplace serene and inspiring, where our toddler can walk around barefoot on grass that isn't dead.  Then maybe she wouldn't end up crying and screaming, "Ouchy grass!!!"  

In my dreams, I've always pictured a "Secret Garden" type of retreat, with tons of hydrangea, bright flowers in window boxes, rambling roses and picket fences.  As you will see, that's pretty much the opposite of what we actually did. So Cal is semi-desert, and water is a luxury (or so it should be), so we can't have a lush garden that needs water all the dang time.  I also wanted something easy to maintain and hard to kill, because I stink at gardening (I'm really good with flowers in vases though!)  So my picturesque secret garden will have to wait until we trade in our generic stucco track home for a quaint Oregon cottage after we retire.  Someday... sigh... 

 I put together a pinterest board of garden inspiration which I showed to our wonderful designer, Yvonne. With her encouragement, we decided to embrace the natural climate of California, and chose water-wise native plants.   Native California plants are not necessarily the lush, romantic flora of my dreams, but they are definitely beautiful in their own funky and understated way. I'm so enjoying watching our succulents, grasses, and native wildflowers bloom and grow day by day.  I'm so thrilled with our decision to hire a designer.  It's like hiring a wedding planner- you can probably get by without one, but you won't regret it if you do.  In fact, you will probably enjoy your wedding more, hire better vendors, and maybe even end up getting better deals if you hire a planner.  I'm pro-wedding-planner, can you tell?  


Our blah front yard... doesn't our brown, weedy lawn just scream "Welcome!"

 Walk through the gate, and you've entered our lackluster courtyard (which actually looks better in this picture than it did in reality)...

Here is the random space between our house and garage. We did nothing with this space besides put Sisi's poopy diapers in it.

Speaking of poopy, this was our backyard... weedy "ouchy" grass, fruit trees that rarely bore fruit, and a planter filled with aphids.  Yum! (These pictures are actually quite flattering, must have been taken during the rainy season.)


Front yard!  No more lawn, just a variety of water-wise plants, including bamboo, jasmine, papyrus, flax, grasses, and succulents.  The plants are not mature yet, so I assume it will look a lot more filled out in a few months.

Walk through the garden gate, and enter our courtyard... 

 Courtyard.  How cool is that modern bench?  Custom built for us by our incredible carpenter, Mark. Any O.C. or L.A. peeps thinking about buying wooden furniture, arbors or fences from big generic stores should consider hiring Mark!  He'll do it better, maybe even cheaper, and you'll feel good about buying handmade.

The spider-infested ivy in the window box was replaced by lime green heuchera.

I'm obsessed with the passion flower vines growing all over our walls.

They produce these purple blooms! Soon they'll be covered with them.

We replaced our diseased roses with papyrus.

  The random space between our house and garage is now an outdoor sitting room.  Thanks to clever wood screens, wooden outdoor wall art, and a vertical garden, it's a cozy area to relax.  All we need is a sofa and outdoor rug to complete the look.

I told you I suck at gardening.  The fuchsias were really pretty before I literally watered them to death.

The side of our house is flanked by a beautiful gated arbor, handmade by our carpenter. Perfect for keeping the dogs in the backyard.


We've got soft "non-ouchy" grass and easy plants like penstemon, senecio, flax, kangeroo paw, and salvia chiapensis.  Also, our carpenter built us this 8 foot picnic table in one afternoon.  I've always had a thing for picnic tables!

I should mention that we recently built a sunroom on top of half our patio, which now serves as our dining room and frees up space in our tiny kitchen.

How amazing is our table, modeled after the Big Sur table from Crate and Barrel, but handmade by a local carpenter on Craigslist for half the price!  Seriously, handmade is the way to go.

We've got a banana tree and Johnson's blue geraniums...

We've got a new planter bed that will one day be filled with veggies and herbs.

And last but not least, an adult jungle gym for my monkey-of-a-husband.   Still in progress.

So, I did experience a bit of sticker shock when I realized how much the garden and sunroom would cost.  Basically, the price of a super nice SUV.  Gulp, that's expensive.  But here's how we justified it.  We like our house and our down-to-earth neighborhood, but the house is pretty tiny.  We would rather add a sunroom in order to free up some space in the kitchen (where we spend most of the day) than pick up and move to a bigger house, which always comes with hidden costs.  We also feel that a beautiful landscape will be enjoyed by every member of our family for years to come.  We've already had picnics, a bbq, and daily wrestling in the grass.  That is worth way more to us than a nice SUV. Plus it all adds value to our home, and blah blah blah.  

Hope you enjoyed  my little garden tour!


Minimal Wardrobe: Define Your Style

Monday, September 9, 2013

In my closet, you'll find about 15-20 of my favorite pieces of clothing, and a LOT of empty hangers.   I seriously wear the same 10-12 outfits in rotation. I am not even bored with them, thanks to my new minimalist wardrobe.

No matter how many pieces of clothing in my wardrobe, I felt like I had nothing to wear.  My wardrobe had no cohesive style.  I had preppy shift dresses, bohemian blouses, nautical blazers and casual flannels all crammed together.  I also had clothes in every color under the sun, even in washed out pastels, which I've come to realize look awful on me.

So, the first step to ending this cycle of endless buying was to define my style.  Who am I?  What image do I want to portray through my wardrobe?  I came up with this:  
"Subtly feminine, comfy casual with a vacation vibe."  

Let's break it down.
-Subtly feminine:  I am girly, but not overly frou frou.  I feel silly in too many ruffles, bows and bling, maybe because I'm so short.  I also gravitate toward bolder colors, like jewel tones and bright corals, rather than girly pastels.  But I still like to look like a woman.  I prefer dresses to pants, and I hardly ever wear "sporty" clothes.

-Comfy casual:    Casual clothes just fit my lifestyle best- it's pretty much the norm here in OC. Soft, natural fabrics like cotton, jersey, linen and bamboo are my favorites. Anything that must be drycleaned is probably too fancy for me.  I usually go easy on the accessories, opting for a tiny pendant necklace and maybe a pair of earrings.

-Vacation vibe:  Think casual sundresses, pretty sandals, maxi skirts with tissue thin T-shirts, boyfriend jeans with light blouses,  and rompers.  Anything you might want to wear while vacationing in the Greek Isles or someplace tropical.     Don't confuse this with teeny bopper Roxy stuff, because I'm 30 years old now, and trying to move on from this juvenile style (but I confess I'm wearing a billabong dress from Tilly's right now!) I'm aiming for confident world traveler, not skater girl.  Of course, this beachy look can be a little out of place in the Winter time, and I need to adjust to darker colors and layers.  But thankfully, "Winter" in Southern California pretty much means throwing a cardigan and boots on over your summer clothes, so I don't need two separate wardrobes for "warm weather" and "cold weather" clothes.

Here is an example of looks that I think I would wear over and over again, and feel completely like myself in.

Derek Lam Dress.
Calvin Klein Maxi Dress.
Maxi Skirt and Camisole.
Boyfriend Jeans outfit.
BCBGeneration Romper.

Once I defined my style, I purged my closet of ANYTHING that didn't quite fit.  Even if the item was beautiful, expensive, or got lots of compliments when I wore it, I was totally brutal and donated it if it didn't suit my beachy, casual lifestyle.  I did keep a few dressier pieces for weddings and parties, but just a few.

So, if you had to define your style in one sentence, what would it be? I've gotten really good at defining other peoples' styles.  My childhood best friend Julie's look is "textural bohemian with an edge."  My bff Angel's look is "quirky, colorful and layered, purposefully mis-matched."   Everyone has a style, whether or not their wardrobe actually reflects it.  I guarantee you'll love your wardrobe a lot more if it does.  I'll be writing more about my minimalist wardrobe in upcoming posts!