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MOTHER’S DAY

My mother, Juanita McClain Philpott, and her grandmother, Delia Wortman Scott, in the 1940s.

As is often the case, Mother’s Day stirs up mixed feelings. My mom sometimes spoke about the void that existed in her life because she lost her mother when she was an infant. Even though her grandparents did their best, she still longed for a mother. This drove her to become a very warm, loving mother, and my brother and I inherited that blessing. As a mother, I tried to pattern myself after her. I went through a time when I felt like I had failed as a mother, but, thankfully, it didn’t last but a few years. Ironically, I also found myself in Delia’s role when I helped raise my oldest granddaughter. Just wish my family lived closer so we could celebrate Mother’s Day together.

APRIL BRINGS FLOWERS AND POETRY

Did you know that April is national poetry month? Personally, I have probably written poetry every month of the year sometime or another ever since I started writing it over 60 years ago. Yes, I have written poetry most of my life, and it has always been a sort of emotional, creative therapy for me. When I was young, I wrote poems about nature and the joys and fears of childhood. Here’s a snippet from a poem about swinging: “I can swing so high, I can touch the sky,

and there’s only God and me.”

Out of the angst of adolescence grew, “I am an unknown entity, drowning in a nameless sea. How can I reach out my hand to you when it doesn’t belong to me?”

When writing about love, “What greater plane can man reach than to be loved so greatly by one mortal being? Therein lies all the smiles of God and all the stars of heaven.”

With the demands of marriage, motherhood, and a teaching career, I didn’t write as much poetry. I do remember, “I dress the boys in blue and the girls in ruffles. But somewhere, somehow, I got lost in the shuffle.”

With retirement came more time to think and create. Several of my poems have received awards. Yesterday I learned my poem, “Shades of Oklahoma” received second place in a poetry contest sponsored by the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry in Locust Grove. I am going there Saturday to read my poem and receive an award. You really should visit this wonderful museum whenever you can. Happy Poetry month!

REFLECTIONS AND MEMORIES

I will be honest with you. I really didn’t want to write this blog. My writing career is rather at a standstill right now.

I am waiting on my editors to have time to work with me on editing two books I have written. The first is a children’s book, and the second is a nonfiction history about Indian Territory in early Oklahoma history, with most of the book

being focused on the Cherokee Nation. Writing a new book would be a huge undertaking, and I am not ready to take

it on just yet.

So, let’s talk about more pleasant matters. My third book in the “Cherokee Passages” series, CHEROKEE STEEL, is scheduled to be released in July of 2022. My first and second books, CHEROKEE CLAY and CHEROKEE STONE are selling well locally but not so much online.

I need to figure out ways to promote online sales and reviews.

Another positive, spring is in the air. I walked around in short sleeves last weekend, but today’s temperatures were in the low 40s. Typical Oklahoma weather. The weathermen are talking about the possibility of snow again.

This old house lies close to my family’s original Cherokee allotment in Welling, Oklahoma. It was built during Indian Territory days by my great, great uncle, James Clay. A few Clay family members still live on the allotment. I am sure that my father, Gene Philpott, visited this house, as well as the old Clay Family Cemetery. He was born, July 7, 1929, on the family allotment. I discovered this house a few years ago when my Clay cousin, Imogene Clay Webb, took me there.

Clay Family Home in Welling, Oklahoma

BIRTHDAY BLOG

Regina Philpott at age 4
Regina McLemore at age 66

Today, February 4, is my birthday so I am going to blog about it. Sixty-two years makes a big difference, but I can still see a bit of that little smiling girl in the senior citizen on her right. Things don’t always go my way, but, generally, a grin comes to my lips quicker than a grimace. I was never a rambunctious child, and reading and listening were second nature to me. Both traits have served me well in my second career as a writer. Many of the characters and story lines in my writing spring from stories I read, was told, or overheard when I was a young, quiet girl. As I look at my younger self, I see my mother’s touch. She always made sure that I was well-groomed and neatly dressed. She worked hard at factory or sales jobs to make sure I had nice clothes that always matched. Thank you, Mama, for teaching me to put my family first and for showing me that looking your best is important. As I look out the window on this snowy February day, I think of all of the other birthdays I have celebrated throughout my 69 years. Some of them have brought snow; many have been simply cold, but a few, including the actual day of my birth, have been balmy spring-like days. I will gladly take them all, but I will especially glory in those unexpected, unique, unusually blessed birthdays!

JANUARY 2022

This title is a little deceiving. This picture was taken in the winter of 2021, but we have already had light snow this winter. This is how our youngest cat, Lucky, enjoys the snow, sleeping snugly in our bay window.

Not sure what this winter will bring. Normally, here in Oklahoma, we have mild winters, but our weather can be bi-polar. We grilled steaks just a few days after Christmas, but now our night temperatures are in the 20s and teens. Soon these temperatures will regularly extend to daytime hours.

What is your weather like where you live? Do you have to go outside no matter how cold it gets? I feel very blessed that I no longer have to go anywhere I don’t care to go. I can be like Lucky, snug in my warm house. Unlike Lucky, I can get on my computer or simply curl up with a good book.

Happy New Year, my friend! May 2022 bring you love, peace, health, prosperity, and any other good gifts you desire.

CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

Hidden Christmas Cat

I like to think that like the reformed Scrooge, I know how “To keep Christmas well.” To me, a big part of that is making good Christmas memories with those you love. This is a picture of our senior cat, Houdini, when he was a much younger cat, enjoying the indoors tree we, his people, provided for him. Over the years, our cat has gotten older and bigger, and our Christmas tree has shrunk. Now we decorate a tabletop tree each year. However, we still make lots of

happy Christmas memories each year with our family and friends.

VETERAN’S DAY

This is a picture of my father, Gene Philpott, as a young soldier. My dad spoke fondly of his time in the service. Of course, he was fortunate to serve in the States and never saw combat. He said, “There is something about marching in a military parade that makes you feel good.” My mom said that he went into the army as a somewhat clumsy, overweight boy and came back as a confident, handsome man.

After making a reputation for himself as a tough lawman for over twenty years, he retired early after being diagnosed with kidney and bone cancer. He fought the cancer for six years until he died at age 56.

He was a complicated man, and I never quite measured up to his standards, but I know he loved me. As I write my stories and books, I find myself channeling his character again and again.

There are days, like yesterday, when life turns dark. Then I cry like a little girl, desperately wanting her daddy.

A TRUE STORY FOR THE SEASON

RAISING NED

The following story is one of those strange, unexplainable family tales that happen to be true. There are a lot of these in my family that we usually just tell within the family. Maybe because we know each other well enough to know we don’t lie about things like this. Today I am going to share a tale with you.

It all started over forty years ago when my daughter Alison, who was around three or four years old, was entertaining herself with make-believe. One night I found her, crouched under our kitchen table, which she had covered with a bedsheet. When asked what she was doing, she replied, “I’m Ned Christie, hiding in my fort.”

 I wish I had asked her then how she knew about Ned Christie, but I didn’t. By the time I got around to asking her this question, she didn’t have even a faint memory of imitating Ned Christie when she was a preschooler.

At the time of the Ned incident, I only knew the standard version of Ned’s story. He had been portrayed as a sort of Cherokee outlaw who was gunned down by a posse of United States marshals and their followers for killing a fellow marshal.  For some unknown reason, I always felt drawn to him, perhaps because he was a fellow Cherokee and had died a gruesome death, but I knew little of the real story.

The incident stuck in my brain, and I once discussed it with my husband Dennis. His reply was, “She probably got the idea from a story your dad told her about Ned Christie.”

I outwardly agreed, but inwardly, I had my doubts. My dad wasn’t much of a storyteller. He didn’t tell me many stories until he was on his deathbed. Then he spoke about his Cherokee grandfather Riley Clay and related harrowing family stories from Indian Territory days.

As his health grew worse, people I didn’t know came to say goodbye. One day he introduced me to a visitor, a Cherokee man. “This is Jackie Christie. He’s my cousin.”

By the time Alison was in high school, we had moved to the community of Wauhillau, which was where Ned had lived and died. One day Alison announced that she had chosen Ned Christie as the subject of one of her school assignments. I drove her to Ned’s gravesite at the Christie Family Cemetery where she took pictures and to the general location of where we believed Ned had once lived. A friendly farmer pointed out where he believed “Ned’s Fort” was located, and we took pictures. I didn’t know until later that we hadn’t walked far enough to reach Ned’s homesite.

The years flew by, and I eagerly grasped the extra time retirement brought me. I finally had time to read, study, and write. Soon, I had read and studied enough Cherokee history to know that my instincts about Ned Christie were true. He had been wrongly accused and executed by federal marshals under the orders of Judge Parker.

As I was conducting research for a family history story I was writing about Riley Clay, I made a surprising discovery. I found the name and picture of my great, great grandmother, Susie Christie Clay. She was the first cousin of Watt Christie, Ned Christie’s father. Ned Christie is my second cousin, several times removed.

This discovery inspired me to write a nonfiction story, “Another Look at Ned Christie,” which was published in the western magazine, Saddlebag Dispatches. But my connection with Ned didn’t end there.

A few years ago, Dennis and I joined the Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association (ACH&GA). When they began conducting historical tours of Adair County, Ned Christie’s gravesite was one of the sites featured. In my role as a tour guide, I met Betty Christie Frogg, Ned’s great, great niece, when she shared her perspective of Ned’s life and death with our tour participants. Thanks to Betty I felt like I knew Cousin Ned much better.

Recently, I conducted my first tour since Covid. One of the participants, Jackie Bob Martin, a Christie descendant, who grew up in Wauhillau, asked if he could share something with the group.  Of course, I agreed, and the next thing I knew he had directed the driver to a long, rough dirt road which eventually crossed a small, flowing branch.

 Goosebumps popped out when Jackie Bob announced, “There’s Ned’s Spring.”

Then he showed us the bare remains of Ned’s fort where Ned’s life was cut short by the marshals.

 I was struck by a new revelation. What I had heard, read, and wrote about Ned Christie was real, and he was connected to my family. He was connected to me. Maybe blood ties can be more than physical. Maybe little Alison sensed her connection to Ned some forty years ago.

This story reminds me of one of my favorite Shakespearian quotes: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Below is the picture I took of Ned’s Spring.

THE HEALING POWER OF PLANTS

Three of the most important women in my life, my mother, my grandmother, and my mother-in-law, all loved to work with their plants and couldn’t understand why I didn’t. My mother-in-law, who was an elementary teacher, related how she began each summer vacation.  “My first day out of school I go out to my flower beds, and I work all day. That’s all I do all day, every day until I get them to looking the way I want them to look. After finishing that task, my mind is clear, and I can go on to other things.”

Each year, my mother chose one day soon after school was out, to come to my house and help me with my flowerbeds, which usually looked more like weed patches. We raked, weeded, uncovered the struggling plants, and planted and watered new ones to replace those that had died. My plants usually stayed healthy and pretty until I returned to teaching school in August and began neglecting them again.

My Cherokee grandmother, Granny Philpott, spent much of her time outside, either caring for her vegetable garden or working in her flowers. Even though she complained it was hard to share a yard with my grandpa’s hunting dogs, she nurtured hardy shrubs and filled big pots and ingenuous containers, like rubber tires, with a variety of plants and flowers.

I tried to explain to all of them that my busy life as a wife/mother/teacher afforded me little leisure time to care for plants. But, somehow, in 1986, after my father passed away, I found myself down on my knees, placing some of his funeral plants in the soil by my front door.

When my mother moved to town, she insisted that I take a huge, old iron pot that had belonged to Granny Philpott.  Each spring, after the threat of frost has passed, I fill it with bright colorful flowers and remember Granny and her love of growing things. I have included a picture of it, fully planted, with this blog.

In some ways, I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s years before she passed, yet her physical absence left a big hole in my heart. Her funeral was on April 13, 2012, and, even though it was early, I soon bought a big batch of multi-colored pansies, marigolds, and petunias. My heart found solace as my hands worked the soil in the old familiar pot that my granny and mother once loved.

HOPES AND DREAMS

Sharing a bit of book imagery today. Think of yourself as the protagonist in your book of life. Are you an action character or a passive observer? In writing, we are told to “hook” our readers by creating interesting characters who are actively moving. For example, in Cherokee Clay, my character Bluebird takes off when her mother yells, “Run!” Hopefully, this beginning hooked you into wondering who is this girl, and why is she running.

Sometimes as we grow older, we slow down and tend to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with this, and real satisfaction can be found in enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Sharing hugs, kisses, and conversations with your partner. A visit, in person, by phone, or online, with a loved one or a good friend. Petting and playing with a sweet pet. Connecting with Mother Earth by planting and caring for shrubs, flowers, and other plants. Cooking and/or eating a delicious meal. Taking a walk and surrendering yourself to the sights, sounds, and smells of our beautiful world. Or perhaps, even traveling to parts unknown. All of these are worthy activities, and I love doing them all.

And yet, I believe there is something more. My restless brain is not content with remaining idle while my hands, legs, and senses are at work. I need to create something from my mind and soul. That’s one reason I am writing this blog today. Right now, I am between writing projects, but I have three books that are in the works. They are my hopes and dreams.

One of these is my first nonfiction book about Cherokee history. Another one is my first children’s book based on a bedtime story my husband used to tell our granddaughter Samantha. Then there is the final book in my “Cherokee Passages” series, Cherokee Steel. (Below is a picture of me, exploring Maine, a few years ago.)