Talk aboutGREAT timing! When chocolatier Mary Leonard, owner of Twin Cities-based Chocolat Celeste, approached me a few weeks ago to inquire whether I would consider partnering with her to offer customized Smooch! chocolates, I was immediately interested. Mary has a well-deserved reputation for creating incredibly delectable delicacies for the chocolate connoisseur. The long-term possibilities for The Smooch! Project were, well, a very sah-weet thing to consider!
We agreed to give the idea a test run. With February just around the corner, there was no time to develop custom Smooch! Project artwork. Luckily, Mary came up with a perfectly smoochy solution: Huge, hot pink lips on a dark chocolate bon bon. Each one is a little bit of heaven designed to melt on your tongue. Marvelous! And just in time for Valentine’s Day!
In celebration of their new alliance with The Smooch! Project,BETWEEN FEB. 1-14,Chocolat Celeste will donate 10% of all sales of these beautiful and delectable Smooch! chocolates to support our effort. How totally sweet is THAT?!?
There are two ways to support the Smooch! by purchasing these lovely, amazingly delectable custom chocolates:
Remember: to help support the Smooch!, please place your order between Feb 1-14. Try them, you’ll like them!
Our next Smooch! shoots are scheduled at our Smoochy friend Chocolat Celeste, 652 Transfer Road, St. Paul, MN. Please join us for two creative and unique Valentine’s Day Celebrations:
Date Night Smooch!: Friday, Feb 4, from 3-7pm. Enjoy a taste of chocolate and wine, shop for your Valentine gifts, and participate in The Smooch! Project.
Saturday Chocolate with a Smooch!: Saturday, Feb 5, from 10am-5pm. For friends, couples, and small dogs. Enjoy chocolate and Valentine shopping for those you love.
Can’t make it but want to participate in The Smooch! Project? We’ve got more smoochy opportunities coming up. Check the calendar at the right.
This Smooch! Archive photo, Mary luvs Oshea, illustrates a major theme underlying The Smooch! Project effort: That amazing human ability to generate forgiveness and reconciliation. The story of Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel is a hugely compelling one, but there is no need for me to tell it here. You can hear it for yourself by checking out the intro trailer for the new film about The Smooch! Project (appropriately entitled SMOOCH) under development. Watch it and you’ll find out just how remarkable these two people are — and how surprising their relationship. Would you be able to forgive the person who murdered someone you loved? Personally, I am not certain I could but I am inspired by the fact that it is possible, because Mary found a way to do it. Mary and Oshea have begun sharing their remarkable story of reconciliation and healing with others through a ministry-based organization called From Death to Life, which welcomes all mothers dealing with the loss of murdered children.
The story I wanted to share today is about another member of From Death to Life that I photographed that day for The Smooch! Project. Angel Cradle has no relationship with the man who murdered her son Duane. When we first met to plan the Smooch! shoot, she asked if she could bring her granddaughter. “Of course, of course,” I assured her with a smile. Two days before the shoot, she emailed me to say she had changed her mind. “Would it be OK if I brought the urn containing my son Duane and smooched that instead?” she wrote. “Of course, of course,” I replied, as my heart suddenly felt far too small for the chest it was sitting in. What a beautiful gesture. What a poignant photo, as you can see here.
Angel and I worked hard together to capture this image, entitled Angel luvs Duane (deceased). The beautiful inscribed metal urn containing her son’s ashes was quite heavy, but Angel managed to heft it with grace. The lighting typically used in Smooch! shoots created glaring reflections. Resolving these technical challenges required two separate photo sessions. Angel was very accommodating. During our time together, she told me about her son and the circumstances of his death. That was hard, too, but we managed to find some ease as we struggled to capture an acceptable photo. “Did Duane cause you trouble when he was growing up?” I asked. Angel gave me a puzzled look. “Because he’s still doing it now!” I said, and we both lightly laughed. It was challenging for Angel to speak about Duane. Even though it had been several years since he died, thoughts of that loss still bring her much pain. I was greatly struck by Angel’s willingness to share her story, her home, her time with me. It’s people like her, like Oshea, like Mary, who are literally demonstrating to the rest of us how to become a better human. More compassionate. More generous. More forgiving. And, ultimately, more happy, despite the challenges that life throws our way. I was blessed to meet these remarkable people.
How lucky The Smooch! Project is to have captured the interest of award-winning filmmaker Dawn Mikkelson! You can find out more about her work at her company website, Emergence Pictures. As you might imagine, Dawn gets a lot of film ideas pitched her way. But making a movie requires a years-long commitment. So how does she choose which idea she’s gonna go with? By her personal litmus test. Dawn knows she’s found a personally-compelling film idea when, in her words, “I wake up at 3am in the morning and obsess about it and have dreams about it!” You can hear her discuss her background, creative focus, and her enthusiasm for the new SMOOCH film in her 10,000 Fresh Voices interview for community radio KFAI. (While you’re there, you can also listen to my smoochy KFAI interview here, where you’ll also hear from three members of the 2010 Smooch! Project Dream Team.)
February is, of course, an important month in Smoochland! We’ve decided to offer two open-to-the-public Smooch! shoots — details are in the calendar to the right. If you’ve missed past opportunities to participate in The Smooch! Project and have a hankering to publicly smooch a loved one, now’s your chance!
In 2010, 15 amazing people made an ongoing commitment to contribute time and energy to The Smooch! Project. This was The Smooch! Project Dream Team, a remarkable group of individuals who shared the dream of collecting 10,000 images from around the world. Dreamer Joanne McGibbon, shown above being smooched by her son, Brian, was on the team in 2010. You can read her Smooch! Project Hero story here.
All 2010 Dreamers agreed to contribute an average of two hours per month (or 24 hours over one year) to help out in a wide variety of ways. And — WOW! — help they did, as you’ll see by the list of the individual Dreamer contributions at the end of this post. 2010 was a really great and productive year.
Last month, I asked every Dreamer whether they wished to continue supporting the Smooch! in 2011. The bar was being raised: Dream Team members were now being asked to provide four hours per month (or 48 hours over one year). The happy result: 11 Dreamers from 2010 agreed to continue their work in 2011.Three members asked to remain on the update list as “Honorary Dreamers,” meaning they wanted to keep up-to-date on the behind-the-scenes Smooch! activities and would serve in an advisory capacity.
I am so amazed at the draw this project has on people! I asked the Dreamers what motivated them to support the project long term. Dreamer Karen Van Wert replied, “I believe that one person can change the world. The Smooch Project is one person’s dream to make the world a better place and I want to be a part of that effort.” Dreamer Soup (Sue) Daugherty said, “I believe that The Smooch! Project is the closest thing to world peace that I will see in my lifetime. Not that I wouldn’t love world peace of course . . . But hey, I’m 54! The Smooch — LOVE. COMMUNITY. HEALING. What’s more important than that?” The Dream Team is a remarkable group of people. I am a very lucky photographer. Truly.
We’re looking for new Dreamers for 2011. Do you have an interest in joining the team? The more people we have working on this effort, the sooner we accomplish the goal: Collecting 10,000 images of the affectionately-inclined from around the world. Your help would be so greatly appreciated. To indicate your interest, simply send an email to me at email@example.com. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!
In the meantime, check out the list of 2010 generous people who served on the Dream Team last year . . .
Becky Pelant: Data entry
Betsy Altheimer: Development & fundraising coach
Glen Booth: Photoshop wizard
Joanne McGibbon: Promotion (Art-o-Mat entries)
Judith James: Fundraising, grantwriting, story editing
Karen Van Wert: Photo assistant, domestic Smooch! shoot development
Lee Wilcox: Facebook and market research
Linda Crawford: Editorial advisor, fundraising
Louisa Hext: Community Bridge Builder, International Smooch! shoot development
Patricia Danielson: Corporate sponsorship development
Randee Baron: Postcard collation, Smooch! shoot manager
Soup (Sue) Daugherty: Travel planning, event planning, fundraising
Suzanne Joyce: Facebook development, data management, research
Tamra Sharp: Office management, fundraising
Vanessa Wilson: Smooch! shoot manager, HR & business advisor
I love the feeling I get when I watch people getting their picture taken. You get the sense that taking time to show affection to someone is just what they needed. It warms my heart.