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  • MarKei Photo & Video

#FrontStepProject: Mandy & Travis

Updated: May 14, 2020

Welcome to another #columbiaheights #frontstepproject brought to you by MarKei Photo & Video. I began this initiative to facilitate connecting the humans in my city, to celebrate our diversity, and share our challenges during this pandemic and beyond. If you’re enjoying this series, please share. To support my photography, like & follow MarKei Photo & Video (on FB, IG, Twitter, &/or YouTube). We are still offering socially distant photography in MN, so feel free to reach out!

Mandy and her husband Travis live just a block over and a few houses down from me, near north LaBelle Park. They closed on their house on Halloween, moving from South Minneapolis. What really drew them in was the big, mature trees in their neighborhood.

And guess what else?... today is their wedding anniversary! They don’t have too much planned for celebration, because, you know, pandemic.

Essentially they’ve been sheltering in place for 2 months now, working next to each other all day long on their couch. When I asked how their relationship is faring during this time, Mandy says, “no amount of therapy can prepare you for this.” Travis admits, “I am annoying. I know it. So we just deal with it.” They admit that they’ve been pretty successful with coping by using humor.

They have a 1 ½ year old, Sylvi. She is still able to go to daycare, though, in the first 2 weeks of shelter-in-place, Mandy and Travis kept her home which ended up being good fortune since they avoided 2 known COVID19 exposures during that time.

Mandy works for the YMCA Greater Twin Cities Association located in downtown Minneapolis, but she’s be able to work from home during this exceptional period in time. They aren’t expected to re-open to the public until malls and gyms are generally re-opened across the state. They’re all still waiting to see if the summer programs will take place, and if they do, with what kind of accommodations. Mandy says, “my heart breaks for these kids who are signed up for camp.” She recalls how much of an impact her time at summer camp had on her as a child. Mandy is passionate about sharing that the YMCA “isn’t just a gym”. Other than it being a catchy song, it also provides child care at schools. Even now, those programs are still in place, with some locations being exclusively for the children of essential workers. Mandy says she is really proud of how the YMCA has responded to the pandemic as it’s also been creating partnerships with organizations to deliver food to those in need.

Travis is a project manager who comes from a graphic design background. He works at a company that creates awards and gifts crafted in crystal imported from China. They design the awards themselves, the art on the awards, and then sell it domestically. Travis has worked there for five years and has had the opportunity to participate in creating awards that have been bestowed on such well known human beings like President Barack Obama. Travis started as a production artist and is now a special project manager, working on custom requests and projects, as well as high quantity quoting. He is grateful that he is still able to continue to do his job from home but is quick to acknowledge that not all his colleagues were as fortunate. 60% of his company’s employees had to be furloughed. So he and a small team are focused and working hard to make sure there’s a company for his furloughed colleagues to come back to.

Mandy and Travis shared how in the first weeks of the escalation of the virus in the U.S, they thought that it would blow over relatively quickly. However, 60 days later, it’s starting to settle in. They see other states starting to slowly reopen, but they are concerned because the numbers aren’t going down. So they will continue to set their own boundaries for their family as new numbers roll in. Travis is the designated errand runner for the household. He typically steps out once a day or every two days. Mandy and I discussed how much we love LaBelle Park but how frustrating it is walking around the southern tip and seeing all that trash. We began strategizing how we might organize to try to clean up that beautiful park; however, its steep hills are dangerous let alone attempt to bring up bags of trash.

It’s challenging for them to have just moved to this neighborhood in October and to be going through shelter-in-place this spring. They were both really looking forward to meeting their neighbors. This is where they plan to live for at least the next 20 years. They want to raise their family here. They’ve been able to meet some neighbors in passing outside. They certainly had the chance to get to know the neighbors immediately west of their house. That family lost their house in a fire just a few weeks ago. Mandy says, “social distancing is temporary; community is forever”.

When they do order food, they try to focus on supporting local businesses such as Flameburger, Filfillah, and Dong Yang’s grocery store. Mandy loves Korean food and used to live in South Korea for some time while she was teaching English.

Lastly, they dropped a bomb on me and announced they’re expecting a Quarantine baby! I was like, what? What’s that? Then I was like, oooooooooooh. Baby #2 is due in January. Mandy and Travis did want to expand their family anyways, though, they find the timing a bit humorous since the due date is on Sylvi’s birthday. When I told my partner, Keith, he laughed and said that in 13 years and 9 months, we’re going to have a lot of Quaranteens.


#FRONTSTEPPROJECT: If YOU want to be featured, message me! It is free for Columbia Heights residents. Donations to SACA Food Shelf & Thrift Store are encouraged. Special priority for residents who are members of a disenfranchised community, essential workers (particularly healthcare) or local businesses. Please share this opportunity with your neighbor who may not be on social media.


#COVIDHIGHLIGHT: If you know an essential worker, immunocompromised individual, or otherwise marginalized/impacted individual whose story you want to elevate (with their consent), consider hiring MarKei for a #COVIDHighlight photoshoot & interview for $175. For example, purchase for your next door neighbor who is a doctor and has had to live in the family garage for the last 2 months. Or for the teenager next door who is missing out on prom and graduation. I will interview them on the phone and do a socially distant photo shoot with them (even through glass, if extra precautions are necessary!) Reach out for more details! Available to any metro resident.


¡Se habla español!


#humanist #twincities #minnesota #mnphotographer #minneapolis #minnesotanice #stayhomemn #onlyinmn #capturemn #thisismyminnesota #minnesotaphotographer #mnproud #heightsnext #mynortheaster #covid19 #goodnewsincohi #northeaster #heightspride #frontporchproject #porchproject #frontporchsessions #porchportraits #thefrontporchproject #porchraits #porchtraits

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