At seven years old, Lynnie Vessels stepped out of the bathtub to discover her father had just shot her mother with a shotgun across their dining room table. Literally standing naked in her mother's blood throughout the ensuing horror, she was magically transported into the loving eyes of her younger sister. Simultaneously, her older sister used words to convince her maniacal father to put down the gun. In those moments, the author came to understand the miraculous power of eye contact and words. Going back into the second grade without counseling, she unknowingly suffered from severe posttraumatic stress. She remained silent about her ordeal until, at age 14, a principal turned her life around. From there, she set out on a path to study the undeniable power of using eye contact and words in resolving conflicts. Ironically, this is one of the most uplifting stories you may ever hear.
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This book contains precious truths for anyone who works with children, for adult children of alcoholics, for people from dysfunctional families and people who have experienced trauma. Do listen for the nuggets and resonance where Lynnie's life story explains something you have experienced. I think the book needs a lot of editing. It is way too long. The author has a Master's Degree in English and doesn't know when to use "who" and when to use "whom." She throws in several "loose participles," My example: Coming home dead tired and wanting only a warm shower, the front door was standing open. There are double-ended phrases in which the listener can't tell which noun is being modified. She uses "human" for "human being" or "person." And her voice is harsh at times with a horrible Southern accent. The accent sounds low-class, but this lady is very fine, so listen for the many authentic truths.
I was fascinated by ongoing denial around alcoholism and a violent act. After a bad earthquake, my San Francisco counselor gathered all her clients to talk on Saturday mornings for several months. We reported waves of sadness, apathy, lassitude for weeks after the quake. Our lives seemed to continue, but we had been through something. I also was helped by one of Scott Peck's less well known books, "People of the Lie." My husband found that one and we agreed it was about both our families. As for the blazing green eyes when the Devil seems to inhabit someone we love, oh, yes! When I had already finished college and been an officer in the USAF for 5 years, I was languishing in my home town and told my family I wanted to go live in San Francisco. My dad stood up, eyes blazing, and almost shouted, "You can't do that! You never could handle money and you never could get along with people!" Thanks, Daddy! I had already been on my own, done well, had a full life far from home. My folks needed to pick at me so they would not have to look at their own marriage. This I learned much later. So I relished Lynnie's telling about traveling all over the world, staying with people, taking little jobs to pay her way, no doubt helping with household chores. People loved her, and when she got home her man was nasty, critical, unwelcoming. I had planned to teach high school English. I did student teaching and loved the kids but did not really understand them. I had problems with the staff and all the politics. I had no teacher effectiveness training, no M.A. [I ended up word processing patent applications.] Lynnie was a very angry little girl, ready to physically beat up absolutely anyone. I was shamed for anger which was only frustration. New kinds of anger still come up for me and I work with it. Lynnie got help finally and now after being a great teacher, she is teaching teachers how to help angry kids -- not just to make them behave but to go deeper so that they can get on their own team and work toward a happy and productive life.
I think Lynnie has another book in her. I hope it will distill her wisdom for using words and eye contact to express our truth the way her sister Mary did to make a demented dad put down the shotgun. I have been trying to meet people's eyes and say my truth. This book showed me that I can't just be a survivor; I need to speak up about unkindness, ill-conceived plans of action, outrageous denial, abuse, damaging ego trips. God bless you, Lynnie!