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#FrontStepProject: Missy & Eli

Updated: May 12

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!


Missy and Eli are married and live near Sullivan Lake in Columbia Heights.


Eli works as a dispatcher for a security company. When the shelter-in-place order was activated, he started working from home. However, 2 weeks later he fell off his bike, broke his elbow, and cracked a rib. Since then he has been unable to work; however, he has an appointment with his doctor on the May 11th to see if he might finally be able to return. In the meantime, Missy has been driving him to his PT appointments which have been essential for his full recovery. Eli glowingly shared that Missy takes really great care of him. Missy says now that she’s the only one who can cook, he has to eat whatever she makes. I asked Eli if this has been an enjoyable “break” (pun intended) or whether the broken elbow has gotten in the way. He said it’s been a nice break and at the same time it’s challenging not to have the use of his right (dominant) hand. Typically, he’d be programming a video game or drawing webcomics. Both are relatively inaccessible in his condition. So he has adapted and began brushing up on his chess game with other folx online, telling me he's been “getting completely steamrolled”.


Missy teaches English as a second language, biology, geometry, and physical science at a high school in Robbinsdale. She is presently teaching remotely and doing her best to support her students. Since she writes her own curriculum, the ESL classes focus on topics that will give the students real life skills, such as writing resumes and cover letters. During the pandemic, she has adapted her teaching style by slowing down the pace for the ESL classes and having more lax requirements. She shared that many of these students’ parents likely were those impacted by layoffs. These students may also be pulled in multiple directions at this time as they may have to provide the role of caring for their siblings. Missy has noticed that some students are struggling and less engaged and she struggles to know what these students need and how she can support them from such a distance. She has begun to send the kids birthday cards in order to stay connected in another way and to reassure them that they are supported. I asked Missy what the community can do to support our kids during this time. She said that the school districts and other community organizations are working hard to provide food, internet access, and more for these students. On top of caretaking Eli and teaching, Missy is also just DAYS away from finishing her master’s degree from Hamline in Natural Science and Environmental Education. Missy says that unlike the experiences of others she knows who are having a lot of downtime in the pandemic, she finds herself just as busy as ever!


I’m not just another photographer; I like to ask the uncomfortable questions. When I asked Missy and Eli whether this entire situation has put a strain on their relationship, they responded, “we like being together.” In the past, they’ve regularly hosted international students in their home, so it’s been an unexpected yet enjoyable circumstance to have time together, just the two of them. They are also in the process of adopting a teenager from foster care and are really looking forward to welcoming them into their home. Eli, the extrovert, has been doing Zoom meetings with his friends which have started to feel odd since there’s not much to talk about. Meanwhile, Missy, the introvert, has been spending more time connecting with people on Zoom during this time. As I’ve said in many of my previous posts, COVID19 is turning the world upside down.


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#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.

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#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.

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¡Se habla español!

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