Lori is a photographer and entrepreneur who’s going to be working with Red Letter Days more closely in creating lovely, enchanting events. She’s been a beloved colleague since the beginning, and we’re so happy she’s going to be contributing even more.
I was lucky enough to have Lori shoot my engagement photos. She made my husband feel comfortable in front of the camera, and touched both our hearts. I was excited to get to chat with her and find out more about her background and how she got to be so amazing. Where did it all start?
Lori grew up in Michigan and founded her first photography business there at the age of 21. At her studio, she created portraits of kids and families, shooting the subjects who are still closest to her heart.
Family is central to Lori’s life. Her parents have been together since they were 15, and they always wanted to create a close and open family. Ten years ago, she moved to California to be with her sister and nieces – to be close to family. A year after Lori arrived, her parents joined the group, everyone reuniting on the West Coast.
The best thing about California at first? “Being where no one knew me, because I grew up where everyone knew everyone.” Anonymity was freedom.
She discovered that everyone was a bit different out west – very informal and down-to-earth. People were more laid back and seemed less materialistic; the community was accepting, that fabled melting pot.
Of course, the flip side of no one knowing you is that it can get a little lonely after a while, not recognizing anyone and not being recognized. Luckily, after a decade, Lori is definitely connected to friends, colleagues, and family.
When she arrived in California, however, she took a break from shooting portraits, giving herself time to acclimate to the new location and different culture. She managed another photo studio and assisted a wedding photographer friend, although she’d never wanted to do events and weddings.
So she carried equipment, switched lenses, and supplemented the primary photographer’s more formal shots with 35mm black-and-white journalism-style candids. And as time went by, she started to realize how different the events were from what she’d seen in the Midwest. They happened outside, the light was beautiful, and everything was much more informal.
Lori moved on to work with another wedding photographer, finding herself immersed in the field by accident. It’s funny how life works, though. She’d studied journalism in college because she wanted to write features. She loves people and was drawn to human interest stories.
As her skill with weddings grew and she began her own business as a wedding and event photographer, Lori discovered that she was once again doing what she loved best: documenting human relationships and the wonderful stories of what happens between people. But this time she was doing so with images rather than words.
It’s no surprise that this was a natural fit. As Lori said, “I’m a very emotional person. I shoot from the heart. I don’t set the stage for portraits. Instead, I watch what’s going on.” She adds that she may not be the most technical photographer or the most invested in setting things up just so. Rather, she notices what’s going on and shoots what’s naturally happening.
Following the natural flow of life has brought another shift in recently, with a bit less photography than in the past. “I stopped doing photography full-time due to personal responsibilities,” Lori explained. As she stepped up to meet those obligations, she also joined a small architecture office, which she likens to being part of a small family. “It was the best thing at the time it came into my life.”
Along with that venture, she acquired her food-handling license because her business Lori’s Homemade has been taking off. What does that mean right now? Cookies!
Lori said, “I come from a family that loves dessert, loves baking. My mom is an amazing cook and baker, and I grew up in the kitchen.”
She finds that being in the kitchen is nurturing and therapeutic. Baking has a great element of pride, too – in the best way. The results are pretty and smell and taste good, which makes her feel good, and she loves to share that with others.
Specifically, Lori shares her signature Chocolate Cherry Mama cookies.
She played with recipes, combining different elements to figure out what she liked best, finally settling on this formula. The oatmeal chocolate chip cherry cookies are a hit. They have a little piece of home for Lori, since they feature dried tart Michigan cherries, and everyone who’s had them loves them.
After five years of hearing the same thing – You should sell these! – Lori thought, Maybe I should start a business. After all, she said, she loves her own cookies, and everyone else seemed to feel the same way. So a couple of Christmases ago, she let friends order the cookies to give to vendors and clients.
She played around with packaging, and a friend from the architecture firm did design work and helped her name the cookies. Chocolate and cherry are, of course, key ingredients. Mama conveys how hearty they are from the oatmeal, like something your mama makes, and they make you feel good just like your mom does.
After refining and tweaking, this Christmas Lori sent an e-mail out to about 35 individuals and businesses, letting them know that the cookies would again be available. That one e-mail generated $1,000 of cookie sales.
I’m thrilled for Lori, and not surprised at all. I was lucky enough to eat a couple of the cookies the first year she offered them for sale. I have a very clear memory of sitting in my car in Banker’s Hill, with two fresh Chocolate Cherry Mama cookies in my hands. It was a blue-gray, cloudy late afternoon. Before I started my car, I took one bite . . . and fell in love. The rest of that cookie and the next disappeared in short order. It’s one of those magic moments that’s fixed forever in my mind.
Before any closer association began, Red Letter Days was already a huge fan of Lori as photographer, cookie queen, and friend. She confirms, “The first time I met Bek, we bonded. You can know someone for 20 years and know nothing about them, but you can instantly bond with someone else. . . . Sometimes you click and share something.”
With all the changes in her own life, and with her natural instinct to reach out, Lori’s looking forward to assisting Red Letter Days with events. She used to worry about weddings because they are one-time events, which can lead to a lot of pressure. Now, however, she embraces the opportunity to be present at such a heartfelt moment.
With so many different life experiences – as a photographer, entrepreneur, and business manager – and having gone through challenging times with her health, the health of loved ones, and finances in the past, Lori believes the nicest thing about being in a joyful place now is that it feels so good to help others and to give back.
She’s come to event planning with a happy and open heart. She loves to give, to be busy, and to be with people. Lori says, “I used to stress out about everything, to worry about everything, every moment of every day. I don’t do that anymore. I know things will be okay, even if it’s difficult.”
When Lori has visitors from out of town, there are a few places she always wants to take them.
No surprise, Extraordinary Desserts is on that list. Her favorite offerings there are the chocolate bread pudding and the chocolate and raspberry torte.
Next is Balboa Park, right next door to the original Extraordinary Desserts location. “It’s a really really special, beautiful place,” Lori says. She loves the combination of outdoor, natural beauty and manmade art and architecture such as the Spanish village, the Prado, and the museums. It’s a great place no matter what your age – young, old, or parents with small children.
Lori used to live by the park and got to walk through it every day. She thinks it’s wonderful that everyone can walk through and enjoy so much that the park has to offer for free.
Further north, she likes to take guests to the Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens in Encinitas, which she thinks is one of the most beautiful places in the San Diego area. “It’s a hidden treasure – beautiful, peaceful, with gorgeous koi,” Lori explains. She likes to walk uphill to look out over the ocean.
Being at the ocean in general is one of Lori’s favorite things about San Diego. She listens to the waves and enjoys how peaceful and calming they are, still conscious of how different this experience is from what she grew up with in the Midwest. One of her favorite activities is power walking up and down the beach, breathing in the fresh ocean air.
Behind the Suit
. . . except this can’t really be called “behind the suit,” since Lori can’t remember having worn a suit more than once or maybe twice in the ten years since she moved to California! Instead, I think this is really a glimpse inside her heart.
Lori exudes joy when she says, “I have the most amazing man in my life. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
They’ve known each other for six years, and she says he’s the most patient, loving, and understanding man she’s ever met. She thinks life is so good because, in large part, she has such an amazing partner – even though they’re total opposites. They always laugh about it. She says they’re the classic yin and yang couple who balance each other out in the middle.
“He’s such a bright light, and he came when life was very dark. He’s a big part of why I see the light in all things.”
Red Letter Days is so happy to continue working with Lori, joining forces to bring more joy into every event. She couldn’t be a better partner!