I was cleaning my desk the morning after returning from my recent trip to Paris and I found this invitation:

“American Party in Paris: Spend an evening with design colleagues from around the globe at the historic Collège des Bernardins. Mingle under 13th century gothic archways while sipping Ruinart champagne”

As I held that card, I started to cry.

Because I recognized that this little invitation was the beginning of a series of whispers by The Universe that led me to the most unexpected trip I never planned to take…

Window display for textiles purveyor Holland & Sherry’s Paris showroom

When this invitation first arrived, back in the fall, LMBI Studio director Darshan LaBang added a little pink post-it note that said “On our list of dreams…” I barely gave it a second glance. There was no way I was going to take time out of my busy life full of family and business obligations and go to France in January. I mean, really.

The image of the gothic archways was pretty, though. I tossed it in a box of papers and promptly forgot about it.

The invite was the first whisper.

Then came my friend, interior designer Laurie Landsness. Laurie and I first met when my business was new, over 16 years ago. I was a solo entrepreneur, working from home, and a pregnant with my first child; it was easy in that situation to feel isolated and lonely. At the time, she was the showroom director at Donghia. Whenever I would go to the Design Center in SF to shop for clients, I would always stop by the Donghia showroom, because Laurie and her team were always so welcoming, they would create this energy of community.

As our careers and lives have grown and changed, we’ve remained in touch over the years, mostly through social media. A few weeks ago, she reached out to me, declaring that having reached a certain age as we both have, it was time to bring back the power of in-person sisterhood. And putting action to her new commitment, we scheduled lunch.

We met on a Thursday. She said, “Are you thinking about going to MAISON&OBJET next week?” (MAISON&OBJET is a twice-yearly international event for interior design in Paris, similar to and coinciding with Paris Fashion Week.)

And I said, “No, definitely not.”

In that moment, I realized, we busy humans, especially women — mothers, entrepreneurs, or both — are so quick to say “No.” This is too much pleasure. Too selfish. Impossible!

I found myself asking, what would our lives be like if we could slow down and get curious about if we could turn a No into a Maybe, and then the Maybe into a Yes?

Lanterns in the Design District in Paris; Photo credit: Laura Marin Bovard

Laurie and I came back to my office after lunch and I immediately checked to see if there were flights to Paris available. Yes! And they were affordable! (Whisper, whisper.)

It turns out Laurie has an aunt who is an accomplished landscape designer and the first tenured female professor at Rutgers, and who happens to have an apartment in Paris. We checked, it was available. (Whisper, whisper, whisper.)

Now, could I go to that interior design industry party? We checked; the event was sold out.

My determination to have Paris, and all of what I wanted to have IN Paris, including going to “American Party in Paris,” was growing stronger by the minute, and The Universe’s whispers were getting louder…

Impromptu Girls Night Out at Le Maurice… what happens when you say YES! (with Laurie Landsness, Oakland-based fashion innovator and my friend, Sherri McMullen, and Sherri’s assistant, Patrice Donaldson, who were in Paris for concurrent Fashion Week )

I reached out to another friend, the wonderfully talented and accomplished interior designer and showroom owner Geoffrey De Sousa. Back in 2015, Geoff spearheaded a philanthropic endeavor “Where Hope Has a Home,” a collaboration of 48 designers and 18 contractors and vendors who donated expertise, time, money, and materials to redesign and update the family suites for the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford. LMB Interiors designed one of the suites and in the process, Geoff and I had become friends. His furnishings and accessories showroom, with Eric Hughes, De Sousa Hughes, was one of the American in Paris party sponsors.

I emailed Geoff, “A miracle has happened and I’m coming to Paris next week. Laurie and I want to go to the party, but I understand that tickets are sold out. If there is any possible way you can find us two tickets…?

He wrote back, “I would love to have you, but it is truly sold out.”

I responded, “Okay. I would like to be there, but if The Weaver wants us somewhere else that night, then that’s where we will be.”

He wrote back a few minutes later, “Well I guess The Weaver wants you there, because I just found you two tickets.”

The crowd at American Party in Paris, 2019

This is a story of what can happen, especially the unexpected synchronicities and gifts, how quickly it all unfolds, when we get in alignment with our authenticity. What happens in response to Yes.

One Thursday, I was given the opportunity to say Yes to an adventure. The following Thursday, I was in Paris.

Laurie and Laura at the party
Networking with designers and fire dancers on the streets of Paris during MAISON&OBJET (Laura and Laurie with Jiun Ho)


A version of this article originally appeared in the Piedmont Post