Rx for miss­ing your col­lege stu­dent: Care-pack­age par­ties

Par­ents bond with each other and fill the void

The Commercial Appeal - - Mlife - Dave Paul­son Lisa A. Flam | AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

NASHVILLE – She’s per­formed at the Gram­mys and the MTV Video Mu­sic Awards, and she’s co-starred in a movie with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Wither­spoon (the an­i­mated “Sing!”). But make no mis­take: Tori Kelly plans to still be very, very starstruck when she comes to Nashville next week.

The R&B/pop singer is per­form­ing at the 2018 Gospel Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion Dove Awards on Tues­day.

She’ll per­form along­side gospel gi­ant Kirk Franklin, who pro­duced and co-wrote her new gospel al­bum, “Hid­ing Place.” Kelly grew up singing in the church, and her orig­i­nal plan was to record just one gospel song to in­clude on her sopho­more al­bum. That soon changed af­ter she and Franklin re­al­ized how well they worked to­gether — in fact, Kelly is the first per­son to ever share song­writ­ing cred­its with him.

Ahead of her trip to Nashville, Kelly, 25, told us about how her faith be­came “real,” the Chris­tian singers she loved as a kid, and what it means to bring gospel mu­sic to a main­stream stage.

“My faith, for me, has been such a huge part of my life since I was a kid,” Kelly says. “It’s so em­bed­ded into who I am. My faith kind of makes its way out, I think, in all of my mu­sic . ... I guess this is a more Chris­tian mu­sic solo star Tau­ren Wells leads the pack of artist nom­i­nees at the 2018 Gospel Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion Dove Awards, along with Zach Wil­liams, Cory As­bury, Tasha Cobbs Leonard and TobyMac. Per­form­ers at the show in­clude Tori Kelly and Kirk Franklin, Lau­ren Daigle, For King & Coun­try, Natalie Grant, News­boys, Ras­cal Flatts, Tau­ren Wells and Zach Wil­liams. The cer­e­mony will be taped Tues­day and air on Trin­ity Broad­cast­ing Net­work (TBN) on Oct. 21.

Eigh­teen years af­ter Diana Sutera Mow gained an in­stant fam­ily with the ar­rival of her twins, her South­ern Cal­i­for­nia home “be­came an in­stant empty nest” when they flew across the coun­try to be­gin col­lege last year.

Gone were the ev­ery­day sounds of her chil­dren, Alex and Rachael, laugh­ing, run­ning around the house and telling her about their day. Gone too were the fa­mil­iar voices of her son’s lacrosse team­mates and her daugh­ter’s friends.

“We went from not just hav­ing our chil­dren but sev­eral oth­ers in our home at any given time to just my hus­band and I and the dogs,” said Mow, of Poway, Cal­i­for­nia. “The si­lence is deaf­en­ing.”

To help fill the void and to stay in touch with fel­low par­ents, Mow be­gan par­tic­i­pat­ing in a grow­ing trend among those with an empty or emp­ty­ing nest: the col­lege care pack­age party.

At th­ese par­ties, par­ents, usu­ally moth­ers, share a glass of wine or a meal and then pack a box of good­ies to send to their col­lege stu­dents. The moms laugh, hug and bond as they swap up­dates about their chil­dren, sup­port each other through new strug­gles, and some­times shed a tear among friends who get it.

Mow, who hosted four par­ties dur­ing her kids’ fresh­man year, opened her home for her fifth on Aug. 31, at the start of her twins’ sopho­more year.

“It gives us an ex­cuse to get to­gether and be a sup­port sys­tem, and see that we’re not alone in this jour­ney and ev­ery­thing is nor­mal,” Mow said.

The par­ties work like this: If the RSVPs show that 12 boxes will be made, each par­ent brings 12 of an iden­ti­cal item, one for each box. Par­ties of­ten fol­low a fes­tive theme, like Hal­loween or Valen­tine’s Day, or boxes can be filled with snacks and stress balls for fi­nals. Some groups of moms wear col­lege Tshirts for ex­tra fun.

Crafty moms dec­o­rate the box flaps with col­ored or hol­i­day-themed pa­per or

ex­plicit way of com­ing out and say­ing, ‘This is a huge part of who I am.’ I love God. I love Je­sus, and th­ese songs are how I get through things. That’s even why I named it ‘Hid­ing Place,’ be­cause th­ese songs, they’re where I feel safe.

“I think I’ve def­i­nitely grown a lot since I was that lit­tle girl run­ning around in church singing songs about Je­sus. It def­i­nitely be­came more real for me. There was a time, prob­a­bly around high school, where it be­came more my own. I de­vel­oped more of a one-on-one re­la­tion­ship with Je­sus in­stead of it be­ing a thing that my par­ents be­lieved, or some church get-to­gether where that was just where you went be­cause all the other kids went. It be­came, ‘This is real life. This is the God who saved me. I need him.’ It wasn’t just some fun thing any­more. It was a life­line.”

She was Franklin’s first co-writer

“I’ve done quite a few co-writes over the years, and work­ing with him was no dif­fer­ent. He seemed like a sea­soned pro when it came to col­lab­o­rat­ing. I think it’s be­cause even though he’s never ac­tu­ally co-writ­ten with any­one, that just shows you how in­sanely ta­lented he is, be­cause in his whole ca­reer, he’s just done ev­ery­thing by him­self.

“Get­ting in the stu­dio with him, he was a lit­tle bit ner­vous to write with me, but he didn’t need to be, at all,” she said with a laugh. “I think it was just be­cause me, com­ing from the pop world and him in the gospel world, nei­ther of us had ever done any­thing like that be­fore. I think both of us were a lit­tle bit like, ‘OK, how is this gonna work?’ And the very first ses­sion that we had was (with the song) ‘Never Alone.’ We wrote it to­gether, and I think it turned out pretty good.”

‘I’m sure I’ll be fan­girling’

“That’ll be my first time go­ing (to the Doves) and my first time be­ing sur­rounded by that many artists in the genre, shar­ing the same faith. I al­ways grew up hear­ing about the Dove Awards, but I’ve never been a part (of it). I’m su­per ex­cited, and I’m sure I’ll be fan­girling the whole time over every­one.

“Kirk was def­i­nitely one of (my fa­vorite artists grow­ing up). Mary Mary was a big in­flu­ence. Yolanda Adams. I loved Crys­tal Lewis grow­ing up. She was prob­a­bly the first singer I re­ally re­mem­ber grav­i­tat­ing to­wards. She also got to work with Kirk and they did stuff on the Dove Awards too, which is kind of crazy. I was re­ally into Rachael Lampa and Sta­cie Or­rico as I got a lit­tle older. The whole time, lis­ten­ing to all of those artists, I was also lis­ten­ing to Ste­vie Won­der, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Jack­son and Earth Wind & Fire. Both of my par­ents, they would just have re­ally good, soul­ful mu­sic on all the time.”

Bring­ing gospel to the main­stream

“It’s an honor, re­ally. I’m just glad that peo­ple get to be ex­posed to this type of mu­sic and hear my heart. I wasn’t sure how peo­ple were gonna re­act. I just said, ‘I’m gonna do this be­cause I love it, and I want to put this out.’ I didn’t have any sort of spe­cific ex­pec­ta­tions or any­thing like that. So to see that peo­ple are get­ting into it, and that it’s even touch­ing their lives, that’s re­ally the big­gest en­cour­age­ment and the best com­pli­ment, re­ally. It’s like it’s not even me. I want peo­ple to be able to see past me and re­ally hear the mes­sage of the mu­sic.”

Nashville Ten­nessean | USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE PHOTO COUR­TESY MYRIAM SAN­TOS

Tori Kelly will per­form Tues­day at the 2018 Gospel Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion Dove Awards in Nashville.

MIA WALSH VIA AP

Moms make care pack­ages for their chil­dren away at col­lege at the Bal­ti­more home of Mia Walsh in Septem­ber. Care pack­age par­ties are a great way for par­ents to bond.

DIANA SUTERA MOW VIA AP

Diana Sutera Mow, front row left, and other moms show care pack­ages they made at a party held by Mow in Poway, Calif., in Au­gust. The moms also wore col­lege T-shirts.

Tori Kelly says she named her new gospel al­bum “Hid­ing Place” be­cause “th­ese songs, they’re where I feel safe.” ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IM­AGES

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