"A rosebush will yield many roses, each with its own unique characteristics and beauty. So it is with the five sisters, a bouquet of humor, beauty, talent and wit."
Indeed, Anita Lewis, Vicki Foley, Linda Tarmichael, Ruth Kenyon and Helen Landrum all have individual personalities, individual strengths, individual recollections of their childhood, and individual life experiences today. Despite their 18-year span difference between Helen, the oldest, and Anita, the youngest, their strong sisterly bond is the result of their mother, their importance of family and appreciation and respect of one another. In this, they combined tell a fantastic story of sisterhood through the years inspired Fluffy, Funny and Fabulous: The Tale of Five Sisters.
Soon to be publicly released Dec. 18 on Amazon.com, pre-ordered books from the novel's publisher, Tate Publishing, the sister's stock and book signings in Illinois within the last month of the books being published have shown the five sisters that more than 200 people enjoy their story. For sister Ruth, who owns and operates KK Jewelers in Osage Beach, everyone can share in their story; becoming an honorary sister or simply reflecting on their own kinship, Fluffy, Funny and Fabulous is book of reflection and appreciation of those we love most - family.
"There is a description on the back of the book that says: "This is the true story of five sisters from the small farming community of Virgil, Ill. Chuckle as they share their childhood adventures. Reminisce with them as they each tell their own stories of small-town life during a quieter time. And finally, be inspired by their combined strengths to overcome challenges as they draw upon their faith. Fluffy, Funny, and Fabulous will leave you either wishing you could be a part of their family or deeply appreciating the family you were blessed with,'" Ruth read. "That is the purpose of the whole book. It's a walk down memory lane, but it is also an opportunity to give people an appreciation of family and what we all have. In our family we have had to overcome some hard times, which every family does. But, we have all held tight together. It has been a wonderful experience."
From idea to endeavor
On the cover of Fluffy, Funny and Fabulous, is a photo of the five sisters and their mother Frances Altepeter. The ladies are jokingly showing their legs while having a good time at a wedding.
"All my sisters still live in Illinois and when they were at a recent book signing there, Governor (Mike) Huckabee was there. They presented him with a book, and the photo is on our website of him holding the book," Ruth said. "He said to my sisters when they were taking the picture, "Well, do I need to pose.'"
The well-known governor showed his enthusiasm and good humor in the fun family photo and sisters' novel. However, the sisters' family matriarch was not only a cherished member of their lives but the reason why the sisters' bond tightened in recent years, as well as why they chose to write this book.
Ruth said two years ago, their mother passed away at the age of 90 and left each of the sisters' a small inheritance. She said the sisters decided to take their husbands and go to Cabo San Lucas for a week's vacation with the received funds.
"During that time, we got to talking about what our childhood was like; it was a wonderful childhood. As in all childhoods, you have certain aspects that are challenging. We had a father who was an alcoholic, however, in later years he did stop drinking," she explained. "There is an 18-year time span from when my oldest sister graduated from high school to that same year my mother was pregnant with our youngest sister, Anita. Those two never grew up together, but we were all in the same house with the same parents. But our life experiences were different."
Ruth said as the sisters chatted about all of these experiences, they realized how fun their story actually was.
"I am second-born and the most impetuous of the sisters. I said we should write a book, never thinking we would. My youngest sister is very organized and aggressive, and within two weeks had the outline of the book, emailed it to us and nagged us all about helping to compile our story," Ruth said with a laugh. "Then, my youngest sister, Anita, wrote the first chapter of the book and emailed it to us all. She said, "Read this and see what you guys think.' We read it and added all of what we thought on the subject and emailed it back to her. She would do each chapter this way - email it to us, let us add in our stories, email her back and she would put it together. So we never saw what the other sisters were writing. It was really cool. Not until it went to the editor, did we see what the book was like. Only Anita knew. It was a really fun experience."
From inception to publishing time, Ruth said it took about 10 months to complete. In the book, the sisters recalled their childhood, going to Catholic schools in the all-Catholic community of their hometown, Virgil, Ill., leaving the area to pursue their adult lives and how they came back together again in large part because of their mother, Frances.
"We go through an era in the book where we all split but we all still have loved each other. Then my mother gets ill. At 85, she had open-heart surgery, survived it and lived to be 90. But she was the one who brought us all back together," Ruth said.
Ruth explained that she felt she had neglected her mother and sisters so much in living so far away in Missouri. However, she felt she got another chance.
"Right before my mother's open-heart surgery, I stood over her and realized I may never see this woman alive again. I prayed and asked to give me another chance to be the kind of daughter I should have been and I got another chance. My Mom and I became best friends, and I did the same with my sisters," Ruth said. "After my Mom had the surgery, she needed all of us. It drew us all together. My sister Helen lived three hours away and stayed with Mom three two to three times every weekend. My other sisters took turns staying with her in the evenings. My job, living so far away, was to call her at 9 p.m. every night, which I ended up doing for more than three years."
"We loved watching the Hallmark Channel movies together, and we would talk about them a lot on the phone. It is the season for that now, and my husband watches them with me in memory of my mother," she added.
Footnotes from fans
Ruth said originally the book was going to be something fun in honor of their mother and simply made into Xerox copies that could be shared with the sisters' families and extended relatives. It is has turned out to be quite a project and a successful one so far. For Ruth and her sisters, it is another adventure and bond they can share in together and with others.
"Mom was the hub of our lives and now we have this book and a whole new energy about us. We just love being together and celebrating our lives with each other," Ruth said. "That is the thing with this book, it makes you laugh and it makes you cry. I had a customer in the store that said she wanted to buy the book once it came in. About three weeks ago since I've had the books at KK Jewelers, she came in. After shopping for awhile, I realized she didn't pick up the book. She ended up buying it and came back in a few days later. She said, "I couldn't put the book down; it had me laughing and crying.'"
For the sisters, it's been a real adventure reconnecting with individuals from their hometown who have attended book signings and also finding out additional details to the stories they have shared in Fluffy, Funny and Fabulous. About a week ago, the five sisters were up in Illinois and had five signings. The last signing they had was in Virgil. There, the sisters had mysteries solved and old time connections of their family made.
"When I was growing up, there was a picture of my oldest sister, Helen, in our photo album, of her dressed as a bride at about 6 years old. She had this darling little bride outfit, we never knew what the picture meant or where it was taken," Ruth explained. "The first lady who came into that Virgil book signing was in a wheelchair and 94 years old. She came up to us and told us the story of how she got married in 1946, and my sister Helen was her flower girl. That picture of Helen, now made sense. Here we are telling our story and people are coming in and adding to our story."
Similar stories emerged at the book signing including the daughter who came to get a book for her mother, the lady who was the teller at the town bank where the sisters' Uncle Phil was making a deposit and got shot in the hip during a bank robbery. Another connection was made when the brother of a priest sent relatives to retrieve a copy of the book at a signing. That priest invited the sisters' parents to Niagara Falls, which ended up being their "honeymoon." They had always joked about how they went on their honeymoon with a priest.
"This book has been so fun for us," Ruth said. "The cool thing about this book is it has brought more people together than we ever realized."
A future for five sisterly authors
Despite Ruth's distance to her sisters, she has regained a close bond through her mother and the book. However, the importance of family has remained a constant throughout her life. Since 1972, KK Jewelers on Route KK in Osage Beach has been a family owned and operated business. Since her husband John retired, Ruth, her son John Eric and daughter Carla Laney have continued to offer affordable jewelry and boutique items to generations of families. Ruth said they truly offer everything from their $1.99 jewelry room to fine diamonds and wedding sets, with many unique jewelry finds in between at all price points. In addition, they have one of the largest showcases of sterling silver jewelry at the Lake.
The one thing I find interesting about our store and is mentioned in our book is we are a family business and when people leave our store they feel like they have become our friend and part of our family," she said. "That is the charm of our store. Those little girls that have come in since they were tiny and bought the $1.99 jewelry have come back for me to sell them wedding sets and now are bringing in their children."
Like at KK Jewelers, Fluffy, Funny and Fabulous has inspired the sisters to think about future projects they could collaborate on and help others in preserving their family memories. Ruth said in January, sister Anita is hosting a two-day seminar at a local college in Illinois, discussing recording family memories. She added they may end up doing another sister project by writing a journal or workbook about that topic.
For now, the sisters anticipate the public release of Fluffy, Funny and Fabulous, look to see more sales from Tate Publishing in pre-orders, hits on the book's website and scheduling of additional book signings across the Midwest. Ruth said they plan to do a book signing in the Lake Area this spring, also doing additional signings in Springfield and Branson at the same time so all the sisters can attend.
However, for Ruth and her sisters, they are most excited to see the positive responses from those who know their family and those who in after reading the book feel like part of their family and appreciate their own even more.
"That is the thing about this book, it has humor, like the title, it is a funny story and they'll have to read the book to find out about it. I actually wrote that part, too," Ruth said with a laugh. "It also has about our challenges and hard times. My sister Vicky wrote about the heartbreak she had in losing her son. He tried heroin at age 15 at a birthday party and couldn't break the habit. After he died, she started a foundation and holds the annual Chris Walk, raising $3,500 to use in services that fight drug abuse. She has risen to be something she never was before because of what she went through. This book is about the hard times too, but how you can prosper and rise above it. It is a touching book that will truly make you feel blessed to have your family in your life."
Fluffy, Funny and Fabulous is on sale for pre-ordering for $14.99 at KK Jewelers and online through Tate Publishing. Look on Amazon.com on Dec. 18 for its public release and purchase.
For additional information about the book, visit www.thefivesisters.net. For winter store hours and additional information about KK Jewelers, stop by its location at 1219 Route KK in Osage, call 573-348-2529 or visit www.kkjewelers.com.