Well, here it is... drum roll please... the fabulously new and improved Soul Mates Photo Blog! Please, pretty please update your RSS feeders and bookmarks. I will no longer be posting here, but at

A HUGE hug and thanks to Into the Dark Room for their creative genius and fabulous customer support. Again, visit the new Soul Mates Photo Blog here. Thanks to all my faithful blog followers... let's continue the friendship over to the other side :)

Big Smiles! Melissa Tomeoni with Soul Mates Photo.

Working on a surprise.

Yep, it's true. I'm working on a surprise for my blog. This sort of present is actually not only for the blog but for my readers, clients and future people I haven't even met yet! You can understand my predicament in trying to A. wrap such a present, and B. keep it a secret in the first place. Even if you know what it is try to keep it a secret for everyone else, k?... I know, I know. I'm such a tease :)

I've decided rather then post part two of the Peru trip I'll wait till later when the surprise is compete. Oh, and don't you worry... when every thing's ready I'll share on here just like I always do :)

Until then, Happy Friday!!

Sneaky Smiles, Melissa Tomeoni with Soul Mates Photo

Peru | Part 1 Machu Picchu

It was the trip of a lifetime. As I recall scenes from our time there I wonder if it was me living it or a passing daydream passing. How can I be so blessed to travel seeing more then what my imitate life has to offer? I have a wonderful life, a life filled with moments, laughter and the deepest love that are more valuable than the latest and greatest product. I treasure these fleeting moments as if they are diamonds and precious jewels.

2009 left with a bang. After my work with FACES I continued to travel in Peru with Josh. We had a memorable meeting in the Lima Airport (which surprisingly might be in one of my top 10 moments. Picture this: Me running to gate 12 toting loads of camera gear completely out of breath afraid of missing my plane and my husband. I practically run over Josh who stepped in my way with arms stretched open accompanying a grin wider than a biggest looser contestant.) Together we continued on to Cusco (or Cuzco. It's spelled both ways and I can't for the life of me figure out what is correct). The following day we hiked the Inca Trail. Lemme tell you, hands down physically the hardest thing I have done to date! 3.5 days, 25 miles beginning at 7,000 feet elevation increasing to 14,000 feet and back down to 7,000 feet into Machu Picchu. It was just like a dream... but thankfully we have photos to remember!
Day one... I still look refreshed!

At the campsite, night one.

This is one of those photographs that was SO much better in real life. I often feel that way about landscapes. Why do I bother when the real creation is so much better in experience.

Us on the trail.

One of the lookouts along the trail. Did you know in Inca days they would run this trail in a day? One day.

Original stones still make up the second half of the trail.

Not kidding. Part of the hike.

Over the last pass, Sun Pass, here's the view from the ridge. Machu Picchu in all it's glory.

Day 4. Us :) We made it!

Temple for the Sun. It was my favorite.

I'm so happy to have my photographs to relive this trip for years to come. I'll be printing one of Josh and I to display right next to our stuffed animal, Mr. Alpaca. Don't hate. I'm a tourist sometimes too!

To everyone, thank you so much for being patient with me during my time off. I'm back and ready to rumble.

I'll be posting the second half of our Peru trip later... so stay tuned!

Big Smiles!
Melissa Tomeoni with Soul Mates Photo.

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all very Merry Christmas! I hope everyone is able to take time, laugh, listen and share memories with the ones closest to your heart. Now, get off the computer! ;)

Here's Josh and I pre-sunburn on the Inka Trail. It was a truly unforgettable experience and I'm so happy to have shared it with my best friend, love, and partner in crime.

Big Smiles... filled with holiday cookies,
Melissa Tomeoni with Soul Mates Photo.

FACES Peru Trip | Day 7, Final Day.

Last Day in the OR!

It's the last day in the OR. It's been bittersweet seeing the families come in, worry and wait and then see their children after the operation filled with thanks and joy. Aside from the experience of being in scrubs and in the OR watching surgery firsthand, it's the thankful emotional state of families that's been most rewarding. It's amazing what just a few people can do for the lives of others.

On the other hand here's somethin' that'll make you laugh...

Yep, that's me. Don't I look fabulous in blue? Can you see the surgery happening in the lower left corner? I would never be able to do something like this in the states. Nosiree.

Friday, the final day of surgeries was a quiet one. The day consisted of 3 patients bringing us to a total of 17 patients for the week. I can't say enough wonderful things about the team and how they each give a specific way to this trip. There are people who have skills in so many different areas, it's truly amazing to see this group of people turn into a well oiled machine in order to better the lives of others.

Rosa was actually scheduled for Monday, but when she came in doctors found it unsafe to operate because she had a cold. A little quick thinking lead to a swap in schedules adding Rosa to Friday and a Friday patient to earlier in the week. Unsure if we were going to operate or not, everyone arrived, met Rosa and checked her lungs right away. Safe! It was wonderful to be able to tell the family her surgery would be able to go through.

Meet Rosa! She's our youngest patient at 5 months old.

We also Operated on Yordy, a 16 year old boy, who has had his lip repaired but needed his nose fixed. I've recently learned that back home these types of patients may have up to 7 surgeries to repair everything begin with the lip, palate, nose, gums and teeth. It's very extensive and sometimes, depending on the case, need follow up work. I'm so happy Yordy was able to make it back for his nose.

It's been a wonderful time working with everyone this week and also being able to share with everyone back home what FACES as been up to. As this week comes to a close I know the people of Peru will be heavy on our hearts.

Before I leave I wanted to share some wonderful images from the local market. Yesterday I actually had the chance to visit for a few and capture some of the local people outside the clinic walls.

Taken right outside our hotel

At the local market

Thanks so much to everyone for following along, thanks for your support, encouragement and love. Just like the people say in Chiclayo, Ciao!

Big Smiles! Melissa Tomeoni with Soul Mates Photo

FACES Peru Trip | Day 6

Today seems to be going very smoothly with two cleft pallets and one lip up on the menu. Everyone seems to be settling in the grove of the trip and yet at the same time I catch more and more people taking cat naps around the clinic.

The day started a bit more calm, we said goodbye to all our patients first thing in the morning because they are doing so well. Levi and Jorge both went home with a visual change in their face, happy as could be with the soccer balls and toys. Martina was also discharged later this morning and let with her caring sister. It's simply amazing that we can come for one week and change a patient for a lifetime.

Bye Jorge!

Bye Levi!

Bye Martina!

Delia on the right (our amazing Peruvian help), Jorge and Tammy.

We began the day with Nicol, this sweet 19 month little girl with a open palate. Oftentimes when this is the child's first surgery it can be very hard and scary fro the parents. When Nicol when into the Or mom began to cry for her daughter. It's so touching to know that Nicol's mom truly cares for her and is concerned for her daughter but just can't do anything about it. It's a blessing to know FACES can help needy children when their parents can't even help.

Here's sweet Nicol... her palate was repaired so there isn't much to see... and good luck getting a 19 month to open their mouth.

Jesse and Jackie working the music. It helps with concentration you know.

The second case was very sad. We proceeded as normal and Tammy prepped little Leonardo, 17 months, for surgery. He was brought here by his mom and grandma. While we were prepping him we learned he had been on medication earlier this week but was initially cleared for surgery for his cleft palette. While under his lungs started to react to medication given to clear them up. The medical team– who is ultimately responsible for the childs well being– did not feel comfortable continuing the operation and decided it best for the child to cancel the operation. After the child woke up and the mom and grandmother returned tears of saddened began flowing because of disappointment that little Leonardo could not be operated on... he was not well enough for the surgery. It broke my heart to see the family cry for this poor little boy.

Thanks again for reading everyone! I'm so happy to share with you all. I can't wait to decompress further about this trip. It's been so fast that I know there are more feelings and thoughts going on. Thanks for being with me every step of the way.

Big Smiles. Melissa Tomeoni with Soul Mates Photo.

FACES Peru Trip | Day 5

It's day five and the schedule has us all going little something like this... Up at 6:20, breakfast at 6:45, clinic at 7:15. The first two cases start before lunch and the final one begins at around 3 pm depending on how long the first 2 take. Each surgery is roughly 2-3 hours which does not include prep, pre op and post op. Patients are at the clinic for about a full day and a half. Photographs are required in preop, beginning of surgery, mid surgery, final surgery, in recovery and then with parents. I need to be here for all stages to document the trip. When everything is done some of us will head to dinner (which takes a few hours cause nothing is rushed here) and then head back to the hotel to blog both on FACES blog and Soul Mates Photo Blog. Whew, talk about a big day!

Today, Wednesday, there are 3 cases on the schedule, 1 cleft lip and 2 cleft pallets. Jorge is only 10 months old and is having his lip done. Just like Evelyn was a few days ago, Jorge is as calm as can be. He's a curious little thing following everyone with his eyes.

We said goodbye to Milagros from yesterday and showed her the new nose and taught her how to care for it.

Levi came in second for his cleft pallet and boy did he have some energy... after a while he calmed down and was able to play with his new toys provided by people from home. The kids love the hats, soccer balls, stuffed animals and blankets. Here's Levi before his surgery to repair pallet work. Levi already had his lip done and is here for his pallet. Her also has a ear deformity where his left ear is completely closed and has no developed eardrum.

The third patient of today was 24 year old Martina who was raised in a remote mountains town. I teared up at her story. Brave Martina had her first surgery last year to repair her lip and is back today to have her palette done. We soon learned that Martina never went to school because of her lip, she was too embarrassed and teased too often not only by the way she looked but also because of the way she sounded when she talked. Since she had her lip done she decided to attend first grade at 23 years old. Today she is so happy she can sign her name and being to be understood by her peers. Martina now lives with her her sister in Lima which is about 2 hours south from Chiclayo where FACES is working. Cross you fingers for Martina, the hope is that she will be able to come back every other month for speech therapy with the local rep. I do hope this sweet girl can have the therapy she needs... If it all works out she'll also be a great candidate for nose reconstruction next time.

Here's Martina!

Again, thanks so much for reading. I can't believe there are only 2 more days of surgery remaining.

Big smiles. Melissa Tomeoni with Soul Mates Photo.