I was born in California in October 1944, the oldest of nine siblings. Our parents taught work ethic: “To always give a full day’s work, leave things in better condition than when found.”
For example, as migrant workers, (picking cotton, strawberries, apricots, walnuts, prunes melons, etc.), we lived in numerous places across the country. Many of our living conditions were not fit for humans by today’s standards, yet Mom would always disinfect and clean before we children were allowed to touch anything.
Mom always made the smallest amount of food seem like a lot. I learned to grind wheat/corn for homemade bread and cook on woodstoves and open campfires. I washed clothes by hand and carried water from nearby wells. At night, Dad would preach and play the guitar, accordion and French-horn; we’d sing gospel songs. I learned to play basic guitar and write songs based on Dad’s beliefs.
I married young. We raised one daughter and seven sons. In 1973, a car wreck left my body disabled. Doctors said I’d become a vegetable (I surprised them!). Our marriage, due to problems I could not fix, ended in the 1980s.
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As I raised my remaining children alone, I was determined to find purpose for unkind behaviors. I went to school while my children attended school. I graduated as valedictorian from Clovis Adult School and received my associate of arts degree in liberal arts from Fresno City College. I went on to Fresno State and got my bachelor’s degree in criminology with a minor in psychology.
I worked as a school site council secretary in a family community center. I was an assistant therapist at Chowchilla Women’s Prison. I did filing at Mill Creek Response Center and also wrote songs and sang to the elderly. I was on the board of Children/Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) where I assisted with organization, facilitated small groups, and got speakers. I joined Divorce Adjustment Problems of Today (ADAPT); my duties included facilitating small discussion groups, arranging for speakers and hotline participation.
Within the past nine years, my dad and my children’s father died and then my son, David, died at age 41. I thought of giving up and refused to listen to music. I moved into a studio apartment in Senior Citizens Village. I gradually participated in painting classes and listened to Old Country Band that entertained us seniors once a week. Someone told the band leader, Ralph Putnam, that I sang. He asked me to audition. I resisted, but Ralph persisted and I auditioned. My first songs were “Amazing Grace” and “One Day at a Time.” I stopped music again, but a lady came to me and said, “Lynda, stop being selfish, stingy with your gift! Sing for us!” I was asked to join Old Country Band. We performed at Clovis Senior Activity Center and elsewhere for many years.
Another son, John, (in his 40s) died. Again, I felt like giving up, but the band members and special friends kept me focused and I kept singing. When the band disbanded due to Ralph’s death, for me, I thought music was over.
Then Estle Finley called. He and Roy Parsley (former members of Old Country Band) asked me to join them. Our band was named “Top Dollar Music Dudes.” Then my brother, most recently, a sister, and then on Aug. 24, 2015, my son Philip, (in his 40s) died. My heart felt heavy and broken. I begged for answers and relief!
My inner voice said, “You have two choices Lynda Lou: 1) Wallow in the ashes of despair and worry your five remaining children or 2) show up and find gratitude in each moment. Friends supported and loved me through it. I continue to sing and share joy with others at the Clovis Senior Activity Center.
My life lesson is this: Never blame anyone, anything for my life’s circumstances. Find gratitude and joy in each precious moment, sing and dance.