The New Normal ~

Wow, so I’ll be done with school in a week. It’s bittersweet. My family plans on throwing me a graduation party and I’m really excited because this is something that I’ve waited so long to do. It’s crazy to think that I started this process 4 years ago. It was a struggle. I remember having no money to do my laundry and having to spray my clothes with Febreeze because that’s the only way I could have “clean” laundry. I I remember having to starve some nights because I ran out of meal plans. This whole process hasn’t been glitz and glam and I’m okay with it…

Today, I had a really good day. I REMODELED my room and it looks FABULOUS. I bought a new comforter, added wallpaper and new lamps. This whole revamping of the room has really changed my perspective. At first, my room was dark and depressing. Some days, I would literally just sit in my room with the lights and TV off and just think. In this point in time, that’s not the best solution. I’m really excited for my future… even though I don’t really know what that entails. Remember when I said journalism is dying? Well, I’ve changed my mind. Journalism will never die. We need journalism to make the world go round. I think the traditional ways of reporting and getting the story out there is dying but as far as having it as a career. It’s not dying. BUT, I do want to add that getting a job is… HARD. I feel like employers ask for a lot of experience from recent grads which is unrealistic. Like hello??? I don’t like 8 years of experience in editing. But honestly, I do. I was editing my Myspace back in the day. I laughed today when I thought about it. I would be in my room til 2am HTML coding my wallpaper and graphics so honey I’M NOT NEW TO THIS, I’M TRUE TO THIS.

In conclusion, I’m a mess and it’s okay to be a mess. No one has it figured out. We’re all just balls of confusion just navigating life. 🙂

Week #5

With finals quickly approaching, I’m sure everyone is a little stressed. It feels so weird that even though we’re all taking online finals, we don’t even have to go the JAC testing center. Most of my finals are papers and thankfully I’ve been steadily working on them. It’s strange to think that come May 9th, I’ll be done with school. Forever. (As far as I know.) Something that was such a central part of my existence will be no more. I think I’m equally scared for my future as excited.

As I’m sure everyone is already aware, Ole Miss is sending out graduates a special package. A lot is going on with my family currently with two upcoming online graduations and a birthday coming up this Friday. I’ve been going to the grocery store- mask and all- for my grandma who lives in an assisted living center for these past few weeks. I love my grandma, trust me, but this woman is a piece of work. She’ll call me after I drop off her groceries at the center and tell me I got half of her order wrong. (False.) She doesn’t understand the severity of the situation and calls my family crying almost daily. This usually results in calming her down and telling her to put on Hallmark Channel.

If anyone has Apple TV and is a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, please watch “Servant”. It’s probably one of my favorite shows I’ve watched in a long time. It’s pretty dark and unsettling though, ha. I still highly recommend. My parents and I have one more episode of “Ozark” left and I’m very heartbroken about it. We purposely only watched it over the weekends so it would last longer. I finished “Little Fires Everywhere” on Hulu and that finale was…. intense. I enjoyed the show, but one of my friends who loved the book didn’t like the show at all. I’m curious as to why so I might be ordering the book soon to compare. I need something light and fun to watch. If only “The Bachelorette” was premiering this June. Fun fact- not only does my mom throw shindigs for The Oscars, she also has people over every Monday night whenever a new episode of “The Bachelor” comes on. She just really loves serving appetizers, I guess. I’m going to miss walking downstairs and having small talk with those women come June.

April has gone by incredibly fast. This past weekend was supposed to be Double Decker. I can’t believe it’s almost May. I guess the question everyone has is, how long is quarantine going to last? I feel like the news reports something completely different every single day, understandably so. Everything is unknown! Like I said in my previous post, I’m luckily still enjoying the routine I have set for myself. It’s going to feel strange for a while when we can sit in a restaurant, go to an amusement park or even go to a friends house to hangout again. If this quarantine has taught me anything, it’s that the time we spend with our loved ones is so important. Not that I didn’t know that before, but now it really hits home. I think that everyone will be much more appreciative of the moment once this is over.

Welcome to the QuaranTHEME

A feature story about a family who makes the most of quarantine by designing theme nights for family fun.

JACKSON, Miss. — So, you have found yourself locked up in your house where there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. Instead of cancelling all the fun, quarantine encourages the LeDuff family to throw a party every day.

What started out as a joke, the theme nights have become an expected evening tradition called Camp LeDuff.

“It all started when we found out that nobody was going back to school,” Hannah Jane LeDuff said. “Francie and I jokingly talked about how devastated the high schoolers must be because they don’t get a prom. So, we decided to throw a prom for ourselves. We had karaoke, we got dressed up and had the absolute best time. Everything just escalated from there.”

The LeDuff women show their handmade corsages for their first family theme night with Camp LeDuff, prom.

Instead of impromptu theme nights, the LeDuff family now has weekly meetings to determine what their week holds. The meetings serve the purpose of deciding the themes so that groceries and crafts can be ordered to correspond with their evenings.

“At first it used to be on a daily basis thing, but now it has become such a big deal in our family we sit down at lunch on Fridays and plan,” Hannah Jane said. “We even have a sticky note wall, so when we randomly think of a good theme night we will write it down to discuss at the next meeting.”

Not every theme night looks the same, according to the family. The nights’ activities complement the theme. Some nights there are crafts, cooking, watching movies or putting together a 5K.

From super heroes to “glamping” to Star Wars, theme nights keep the LeDuff family in their normal routine of hectic schedules.

“We generally tend to be a really busy family,” Hannah Jane said. “I love the nights when we have themes because it’s good to have the normalcy of our hecticness. We are running around cooking, getting dressed and cleaning which gives us that sense of a normal, busy schedule that we tend to live by.”

Work by day and party by night is the LeDuff family motto. Every night there is a theme to go along with their dinner, except for Sundays. With their father as an internal medicine doctor and all of the children still in school, there is a lot of work that needs to get done.

According to the LeDuff family, the days where there is no theme night, or if someone is too busy with work to participate, is always the saddest night.

With being stuck in their home since mid-March, none of the LeDuff children have seen their friends. According to Hannah Jane, the nights help fill the void of them missing their friends and making it feel like they are back at college or at their high school functions.

The LeDuff ladies wait to eat their s’mores.

“We all want to be with our friends and we are used to that freedom,” Hannah Jane said. “My sorority swap box has been up on a shelf for a year, so it’s fun to have it back on the ground again and using those costumes and accessories. It’s good to have these theme nights that distract us and make us feel like we are at our college functions again, except these are family appropriate.”

Annalee LeDuff, the youngest of the siblings, said her favorite nights have been luau, Scooby-Doo, preppy badminton and with a family favorite of Harry Potter. She said these nights are good for her because it allows her to have a place for her creative outlet.

The theme nights have meant more than just a fun activity for the family. According to Stacie LeDuff, she is glad that all of her children get to be under one roof again. Hannah Jane, the oldest, has not been home for a long period of time in five years. Also, two of the other three kids moved off for college so they are not home often.

“Being together again we have definitely relearned each other,” Hannah Jane said. “We’ve learned to respect living with each other again and redeveloped relationships. We all know it is very different living with friends compared to family. We have all gotten closer because we kind of have to during this time. But, I am strangely thankful for this quarantine. Since I live so far away and next year I will move off even farther for a job I feel like this time gets to be my last hoorah with my family.”

Good Friday is spent with a good picnic.

The LeDuff family has no intention of stopping their theme nights soon. According to Stacie, she believes the theme nights are important because it gives everybody a chance to act silly, have fun and not think about all of the negativity and fear in the world surrounding them.

“These nights are good for us,” Hannah Jane said. “It’s good to take a break from staring at my computer and to stop looking at what is going on around us. We can let go of everything and take time to be a family during all of this. Family is all we have to hold on to.”

*All pictures courtesy of the LeDuff family

COVID Blog #4 // Emma Rose Davis

This was another hard week. First of all, I felt very unmotivated to do school work. Teaching myself math has felt like teaching myself rocket science. I took an in person class for a reason. If I don’t pass this class, I don’t graduate. There is no pressure there. As I wound up my last “real” week of school I have a lot of thoughts. I say “real” because if we were there this upcoming week would be dead week. However, I have never had a dead week. I am finishing up all my final projects and trying to make sure I have everything finished. I am waiting mostly on professors to get things back and worrying about if assignments are going to be good enough. 

Ole Miss decided to send us a “graduation packet.” We are not entirely sure what comes with that but we do get our caps. It is a nice gesture but makes me very unhopeful that we will ever get to walk. When I was a freshman, I wanted to leave Ole Miss. My dad said that I had to stay. I cried every day of freshman year, lost 20 pounds, and came home every weekend, unless it was a football weekend. I hated it so much. If you would have told freshman year me that I would finish my senior year at home she would have been so excited. But I want to take freshman year me by the head and shake some sense in to her. I tell my dad all the time that I am so thankful he made me stay. He really did know better and I now would give anything to be able to finish my senior year. 

School has gotten somewhat easier but I miss going to class. I am a visual learner and online school has been overwhelmingly difficult for me, especially with senioritis. I truly just feel so unmotivated. I haven’t been sleeping which makes me wake up late and I am most productive in the mornings, thus making it very hard to get work done. Whenever I have my depressive spells I always tend to not sleep and then over sleep. 

I am worried about my final project in this class. It is new territory to combine personal life and vlogging with reporting. I have loved vlogging and have been doing it for two classes. It is something I would like to continue to do and hope that I will after it isn’t worth a grade. I can see myself getting into it and my best friend’s mom has always said I could be a Hoda Kotb. I don’t see it but that would be cool.

With the final week of my undergraduate degree and my education in the foreseeable future, unless someone wants to pay for graduate school then hit me up, I am feeling very nostalgic. I am so thankful for the past 3.67 years at Ole Miss. While I do not know what my future holds, I know I had the best almost four years at Ole Miss. It was truly so incredible and I am thankful for every lecture I hated, every walk in the grove, and experience I had in Oxford. I had professors who changed my life and I am so thankful for every single experience and especially the ones I experienced through Farley and the Journalism school. One never truly graduates from the University of Mississippi, see you soon Oxford.

COVID Blog Week 4

Jake Davis

I started to fall behind a little this week. I slept for long hours during the day, sequestered myself in my room, and avoided my schoolwork. I don’t know if this was the usual procrastination because I had a fairly busy week or if I was having trouble coping.

I’m shocked that so many people are STILL not taking this seriously. I have not left home in weeks now, doing yardwork, reading, and watching Netflix. Elsewhere people are gathering in large crowds to protest the quarantine while nurses in scrubs block their cars. Is this really where we are at already? I figured we would have a pushback but I expected it to occur in July or August not mid-April.

Governors of multiple states are re-opening businesses in their states, which will promptly lead to a resurgence of cases in those areas and force the rest of us to stay isolated longer.

It’s starting to feel like this will go on even longer than I thought. I cynically felt back in March that this would last until August or September but now it appears that these breaches of quarantine will force us all to shelter in place well into the fall.

I know it’s a strange obsession and I should have more hobbies but I honestly feel lost without basketball on. My entire schedule revolved around getting my work done and having time to watch games starting at 7 pm. I would even leave assignments that I could multitask on for later so that I could do those around 6 pm when college basketball came on.

Even during the day I was constantly consuming basketball content. I would watch highlights and film breakdowns on Youtube, listen to podcasts from basketball writers and players on my way to and from class, I kept up with ESPN, CBSSports, FoxSports, BleacherReport, and more throughout the day looking for news on injuries and the latest contract negotiations. If I had some time before games started in the evening I would hop on 2K and play through that night’s games or experiment with different lineups and combinations.

On the weekends I would consume more content, watching classic games, documentaries, and playing long MyLeagues on 2K where I would play years into the future.

My job search was just as focused. While I would accept a job writing about any sport, I tailored my searches for basketball jobs, hoping to parlay my knowledge of the sport into a potential career.

Now all of that is on hold. The whole damn world is on hold. I had an epiphany of sorts realizing that once school is over the last semblance of a schedule in my life will be gone too. I think I was afraid of this, but I know it is inevitable. These circumstances are bizarre and distance learning can be frustrating at times, but we only have a few weeks left before yet another source of contact with the outside world is taken away.

I’m an Essential Worker, but I Don’t Feel Essential

Unlike a lot of people that I know, I am lucky enough to still be working my full-time job. But is lucky really the word? For those of us that are still working, we are all being told the same thing: we’re essential. We get special passes to keep in our cars in case we get pulled over, we still get to go to work every day, and unlike many, we are still receiving our normal paychecks. Although it sounds like we’re the lucky ones, are we? While I am grateful to still have my job, I’ve learned some harsh realities that come with working during this pandemic.

1. I don’t have the opportunity to stay at home with my son. Being a single mom means that staying home is not an option. I have to provide for my son, which means going to work Monday through Friday. Many other Moms in my son’s class have chosen to take their kids out of daycare to keep them safe at home. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury. Each morning I drop my son off at daycare, I feel torn. I feel blessed that his daycare has stayed open and that he is continuing to be around (some of) his friends and continuing to learn new things. However, I also feel guilt and shame. I feel guilty for being one of the few Moms who continues to send her child to school or daycare, despite the risks. I feel as though other Moms judge me for continuing to send him to daycare during this scary time. But I don’t have another choice.

2. The word essential is not as glamorous as it sounds. Like many other people still working during this time, I’m considered an essential employee. We are the ones who take the risk to continue going to work every day. We are the ones who sacrifice time at home with our families. We are the ones who are putting ourselves and loved ones at risk simply by showing up to work each day. We are so needed, but do we feel that way? I don’t. I watch as friends who were laid off sit at home and draw unemployment, making double what I make putting myself at risk every day. Something doesn’t seem fair or right that I could be making more money if I were laid off right now than I am going to work 40 hours each week. I watch my best friend, who’s a nurse at a prison, put herself at risk each time she clocks in for a long shift. What is she getting out of it? Her regular paycheck and a pat on the back for being essential? Why are people who worked minimum wage jobs before being laid off now making more sitting at home than the essential workers who are put at risk every day? Don’t get me wrong, unemployment benefits are a great thing for those who need it and if given correctly, but making $800 plus each week while people who are actually working are lucky to see $500 is a major issue.

3. Most (not all) jobs don’t care about their employees as much as they lead them to believe. This one hit hard. I work for a huge corporate company, a company that generates millions of dollars each year, a company that should have procedures in place to take care of its employees during unexpected times such as these. I have coworkers who don’t feel comfortable or safe coming to work, but they have no other choice. If they want to take time off, they are forced to use their accrued paid time off, sick, or vacation days. Our Regional Vice President is working from home, holding weekly conference calls while wearing his pajamas in the safety of his kitchen with his family. Yet, everyone else is still forced to work from the office. Every week, he makes it a point to tell us how much this company puts our best interest first, how much this company cares about its employees, how badly they want us to feel comfortable, safe, and healthy. Sounds pretty crazy coming from someone sitting at home.

4. Everyone’s situation is different, so don’t judge anyone. You have to do what you have to do. Every single person is handling this pandemic differently, whether it’s by choice or not. Every time I let myself start to get angry about all the negative things that have come from COVID-19, I try to tell myself that I’m doing the best I can and that I can’t control reality. But I can control my attitude and perspective, as I’ve touched on in previous blogs. As angry as I am about the treatment of essential workers, I am blessed to have a job. As guilty as I feel for continuing to send my son to daycare, he is getting social interaction and continuing to learn. Not everyone has a two-parent household. Not every Mom can choose to stay home with the kids while her husband goes to work and provides for his family. Not everyone has job security. Each person is dealing with this the best way he or she knows how. At the end of the day, I’m blessed. I’m blessed to have an amazing and smart son. I’m blessed to have a steady job that takes care of my son. I’m blessed to still be going to school, despite the circumstances. Things could always be worse. Changing your perspective from a negative one to a positive one has helped me deal with this pandemic in a much healthier, calmer way. But geez, I hope this is over soon!