Monday, August 10, 2020

Bringing a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition to Watonga


 Phoenix Circle Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Watonga, OK.  Their mission is to promote and support the arts and humanities, educational, environmental, and health and wellness programs in a disadvantaged and underserved rural area of Oklahoma. 

Oklahoma Humanities is currently offering a grant to museums, libraries, and cultural organizations in towns with fewer than 20,000 residents to host a Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibit called  Crossroads: Change in Rural America.  The exhibit will tour six Oklahoma communities from September 2021 to June 2022. 

Main StreetMoMS is a one-of-a-kind cultural project that combines the prestige of Smithsonian exhibits, the program expertise of Oklahoma Humanities, and the remarkable volunteerism and unique histories of Oklahoma's rural towns. MoMS exhibits are a powerful catalyst – opening doors to a community’s own history, its culture, its people, and to enhanced town pride. When small town cultural organizations host MoMS exhibits, they bring revitalized attention to their communities. These high-caliber exhibits attract visitors from surrounding areas which can stimulate the local economy.” (reprinted from the MoMS website). For more information on the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) Crossroads program, please visit their website at  NOTE:  this is not a “Main Street” related grant.

Phoenix Circle Foundation is submitting an application to host the exhibit at the Watonga ArtWorks building on Main Street.  The main exhibit will be supplemented by various seminars, workshops, and other presentations at different locations in our area, all of which will be made possible by the grant.  We’d like to highlight all of this area’s historical, cultural, and community attributes, including our State Park, the native American heritage and influence on Watonga’s long history, along with the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps at Roman Nose State Park.  We believe this exhibit can be a strong catalyst to highlight what we have here, look at how we can move forward as a town, and bring the community together as host of a very important art exhibition, not to mention the economic impact it can have on our town and Blaine County.   

One of the selection criteria will be evidence of strong community support.  We are asking for public Letters of Support for this project, which will involve the entire community.  If you would be interested and willing to be a partner in our effort to bring this unique and significant exhibit to our town, please write a letter of support.     

Please take a moment to look at the information about the Smithsonian traveling exhibition on "Change in Rural America" at  Wouldn't it be great to bring this exhibition to Watonga? 

If you think so, please write a letter of support and send it to PHOENIX CIRCLE FOUNDATION at 111 E. Main St., Watonga, OK 73772. For more information, or to get a sample letter of support, call Linda Barrett at 580-623-4269 or cell: 940-735-1065; or contact us by email at THANKS!

Thank you for your help. 

Linda Barrett, Secretary/Program Director, Phoenix Circle Foundation

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Covid19 update

Here in Blaine County, as of July 2 there have been 14 cases of COVID19 reported, with half of those persons recovering.  In Watonga, 7 cases have been reported and five people have recovered. 

But in Oklahoma statewide, reported cases have skyrocketed, with some days this past week having reports of double the cases as the day before. With the July 4 holiday weekend starting today, the message is:  avoid large gatherings, stay home as much as possible, and wear a mask if you must go out.

Watonga is still going to hold it's July 4th fireworks display and gathering at Huff-Lorang Park, with free popcorn, possibly food trucks, and a fire truck on site to spray attendees. Watonga residents watch the fireworks at the park in a "tailgate" setting, so people can set up their picnic blankets and lawn chairs with sufficient social distancing space.  The temperature today (Friday) will be in the mid-90's with a chance of rain overnight, and around 90 degrees and a chance of rain on July 4 and on Sunday.  Oklahoma local TV weather forecasts cover the entire state, so we don't know if the chance of rain is in our area in central/western Oklahoma or in the east near Tulsa or south near the Red River. Our local newspaper no longer prints a weather forecast, so we just take things day by day.

Our house is on lock-down except for real necessities - grocery pickups, needed doctor visits -- and not much else. Andy does get out to mow people's lawns in town, but he doesn't have any contact with anyone when he is doing that.  I'm continuing my cardio rehab at the Fairview Hospital, and drive there twice a week.  All activities at our Bed and Breakfast and art center are canceled, including a summer youth program we had planned and all house concerts through the end of the year. Hopefully we'll be able to pick up activities in October but we aren't holding our breath.

The grasshoppers are a plague this year, eating most of our vegetable garden plants and produce and most of the flower gardens.  Some squash and tomato plants are surviving but just barely.  Even the monkey grass is being eaten down to the ground.  That plant always comes back, and some flowering plants are being spared -- mostly ones I'd rather the grasshoppers do eat like the 4'oclocks.

Roman Nose State Park no longer has any KEEP OKLAHOMA BEAUTIFUL recycling bins provided by PepsiCo.    Phoenix Circle Foundation, an affiliate of KOB, arranged for two collection bins to be placed at the Park's General Store, and the bins have "gone missing" according to the Store manager.  The bins were placed at the General Store with the permission of the Park Manager and the General Store manager, and it was a perfect location for aluminum and plastic bottle collection.  For the past two years, volunteers have picked up the bags of recycled trash and provided replacement trash bags for the bins.  We are disappointed that the current General Store management does not want to  keep the bins on their porch any longer. However, we still have two collection bins in the town of Watonga -- at the Hot Dog Joint and at the Watonga Airport--and appreciate those businesses' participation in the recycling program. Andy will also pick up any aluminum cans dropped off at the local Senior Citizen Center.   

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

June 2020

It’s June and the temperatures are certainly reflecting it.  Most days now are in the 90’s and the wind has been up lately.  If we weren’t wearing masks for COVID prevention, I’d be wearing one for allergies!

I’m excited this morning!  Drew ordered an adapter for me to be able to connect my laptop computer to an old 14” monitor that was connected to our desktop computer in the bedroom.  I plugged it in this morning and everything worked!  I can see what I am typing, and I can read Facebook and emails much easier.  Now I need to trim my fingernails ‘cause they are in the way when I type on the laptop keyboard.

This past Saturday I set up a yard sale with stuff we’ve been pulling out of closets and drawers over the past several months.  We have too much “stuff”!  I hate holding a garage sale ‘cause things just don’t sell – can’t even give away new items.  I had a lot of new Southern Living home d├ęcor items I had no use for.  After five hours in the heat and wind, I packed up and separated out one bin to go to Goodwill and one bin of stuff to donate locally – including two vacuum cleaners.  It feels good to be rid of some stuff and I don’t miss any of it. 

On Sunday I went to the Rook Mansion for a house concert I had set up with the owner, Willis, with a former Watongan, Craig Gurney, who was in town from Washington state, and his wife, a folksinger, performing their open mike show.    Craig had been told about our house concert series by Andy’s sister Jane, and he contacted us about doing a concert at the end of June.  We aren’t hosting any house concerts right now so I put him in touch with Willis at the Rook Mansion.  Craig worked out the details of his visit with Willis and I arranged for Katie and Kelly Ray duo to play some country/blues also.  Craig called me before they left Washington to tell me how excited he was to be coming to Watonga and to perform, and he thanked me for making arrangements for a place to play.   Willis put out some good grub as a ‘thank you’ to First Responders.  Katie and Kelly Ray opened the afternoon with their set, and  Craig followed with some motorcycle poetry and then Kathy same some folk songs.  There was a good crowd and we received some donations toward the food and some money for Phoenix Circle Foundation too.  Some people wore masks and some people didn’t, but we definitely kept our social distance from each other in Willis’ very big back yard.  It was good to see a few friends after being isolated at home for a month.  It was a hot and windy afternoon but all went well and everyone seemed to have a good time. 

Yesterday my blood pressure was low, 90/60 and slow heartbeat.  I was dizzy and had a headache.  I had done my regular cardio workout in the morning and blood pressure was a little low when I left Fairview but was higher by the time I got home.  I guess that means I was relaxed after the drive home.  But after about a half hour, I felt the headache and checked the blood pressure again.  I took some aspirin, drank lots of water, and rested for a while and felt better before long.  The rest of the day was uneventful.  It was just too hot and windy to go outside to do some yard work, and the vegetable garden is suffering from the grasshoppers this year.  I watched an episode of “Building Off the Grid” on HGTV.  
We are giving up our PO Box, the one Andy’s dad had since moving to Watonga in the 1950’s. When Andy and I moved here, we didn’t have a “street address” because of our location out of city limits (the local telephone book listed us as being located  ‘NE of City’.  Now that the City and County have finally completed their 911 system installation and we actually have a street address where people can find us on Google, we’re changing all mail to come to our home street address or the art building, 111 E. Main St., Watonga OK 73772.

I’m still going to Fairview for my 2x week cardio rehab sessions.  I’ve increased my resistance level on one machine and increased my time spent on both machines.  I need to check with the local gym to find out what their membership fees are, with the hope that I can eventually continue my exercise regimen locally instead of driving thirty miles one way twice a week for exercise. 

Yesterday was an election day, with the big question on the ballot in Oklahoma being a measure to accept federal funds toward state Medicaid programs.  In my mind, it's a must-do measure and is a win-win proposition since federal funds will be matched by the Oklahoma TSET fund.  Oklahoma residents are already paying taxes to the federal government but not getting money back to go toward health care for the underserved--funds we would be getting are going to other states --so I voted "YES" on question 802.   

This week is going to be HOT all week with no forecast of rain in the near future.  We'll see.  

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Mid-year Update on Phoenix Circle Foundation

June 10, 2020 
Dear Friends, 
It’s the middle of the year and we’ve already accomplished much, thanks to your past support.    
Last summer we held our first Community Art Club in June and July.  The art center was open on Saturday afternoons after our local library closed, for children to come experience and experiment with art using the supplies we provided.  We still do not have a heat & air conditioning system in the building but we used a generator to operate fans so we were able to maintain a comfortable temperature in the building for the participants.  Everyone who came had a good time and created something to take home.  We are putting together an arts segment for the Kiwanis summer youth program this year, keeping in mind the social distancing and other precautions we all need to follow to stay safe and well. 
We held free house concerts throughout last year and through March of 2020, and were able to pay each musician a stipend of $100 for performing. Between tips and the stipend, the musicians left happy and the audience was entertained by some awesome and diverse singer/songwriters and poets.  Although we have had to cancel the remaining live concerts we had scheduled for 2020, we continue to promote the virtual shows put on by our alumni and hope to reschedule live concerts in 2021, including a Simon and Garfunkel Tribute show by the group called “Whitherward”.  HOWEVER, a former resident of Watonga is coming to town in late June to visit family and friends and we're hoping to get him to read some of his writings (he calls it 'motorcycle poetry') and play guitar.  The show will be held at another friend's house, the Rook Mansion.  Information will be posted on Facebook pages when details are lined up.  Check the BLAINE COUNTY CALENDAR group page. 

This year we awarded a $250 scholarship to an art student from Canton High School who is eager to continue her photography.  She won first place in photography at the Woodward Student Arts show in 2019.  During the school year she used a camera provided by the Canton high school, and told us she’d like to have a camera of her own. We hope to exhibit some of her work at the Watonga ArtWorks gallery when we have it open on a full-time basis. 
Our organization is especially excited to have been named as Affiliate of the Year by the statewide organization KEEP OKLAHOMA BEAUTIFUL at their annual Environmental Excellence Ceremony at the end of 2019.  Our organization was selected from among cities, nonprofit organizations, and volunteer groups from
across the state of Oklahoma.  For more information, see their website at  
This year we participated in the Great American Cleanup and were able to round up local volunteers for two projects – a “stay-at-home” cleanup and a day of walking the right-of-way of a portion of the main highway that goes through town, Clarence Nash Blvd., to pick up trash and recyclables.  For both projects, we observed the COVID19 safety guidelines, wore face masks provided by Mercy Hospital and encouraged small groups and 6-ft distancing from one another.  For the home projects, we provided individuals with trash bags, hand sanitizer, bottles of water provided by Pioneer Telephone Cooperative, and gloves with instructions to pick up trash around their neighborhood and take a photo of their trash haul for our report to Keep Oklahoma Beautiful.
Last summer we established a “teaching garden” with the help of a grant from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, and had a few volunteers come help set up the space and edibles including tomatoes, yellow squash, bell peppers, and basil.  We have already planted this summer’s garden and are well on the way to gathering the fruits and vegetables.  Every resident of Watonga and civic groups (4H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts etc.) are invited and encouraged to come out to the garden to volunteer and take home some of the harvest.  The majority of the fresh produce is donated to persons in need.  Don't know how much of a harvest we'll have since the grasshoppers are already out in full force this year due to the dry weather! 
It is at this time of year that we ask for your financial support of our organization to sustain the many programs and projects we bring to our community to enhance the lives of those who live here and visitors to our area.  As you can see, our organization is giving back to our community in many ways as we work with other nonprofit groups, civic organizations, teachers, businesses, and individuals.     A donation from you in any amount will allow us to continue bringing arts education and experiences, environmental beautification, health and wellness, and music programs to our area through 2020 and into 2021. Our primary financial need this year is a solar energy system for the Watonga ArtWorks building, which we are putting all of our 2020 donations toward. 
Thanks to all of our friends and supporters for your consideration and love. Keep up on all of our activities and events on our Facebook pages, PHOENIX CIRCLE FOUNDATION, OKLAHOMA HOUSE CONCERTS, and WATONGA ARTWORKS; and the Facebook group page, Blaine County Calendar. 
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Linda Barrett, Program Director, by phone or email.
 Linda Barrett, Secretary/Program Director
Current Board of Directors:               Andrew J. Barrett
                                                                Mary Larson
                                                                Linda Barrett
                                                                Stacy Shirley

Thursday, April 2, 2020

April 1, 2020
This isn't an April Fool's joke.  I believe humanity is getting closer and closer to the brink of change that we won't be able to come back from. The good news is, it has been a wake-up call around the world.

"Nobody gets out of here alive.
Good things happen in life - embrace and enjoy them.
Bad things happen - embrace them and learn from them.
Everyday is a test of how each of us will live our life 
and what we each will get out of it.
But nobody gets out of here alive." (c) Linda Barrett 2019

I have been working on writing, both in my personal journal and on my memoir.  After having to remember and relive and recount some traumatic episodes I've been through, and balancing those with the good things in my life, both of which have made me strong and resilient and a survivor, I took the advice of a friend who is a published author and started organizing all of the short "stories" into what I intend to be a memoir.  The most recent nightmare (other than the current global health crisis, COVID-19) has forced me to relive a time from forty years ago and brought the spectre of a long-forgotten ghost back into my life. 

Our entire family is "on alert" for an undetermined period of time.  We keep the house and cars and out-houses locked up tight, and watchful eyes toward the lane that leads to our house from the highway. Alarms signaling that a vehicle has turned into our driveway have been installed and are monitored. There was a point I thought I may have to leave the retreat for a while, but that concern has passed.  I'm not here - not answering the phone, not seeing anyone, and not going into town. The COVID-19 has become a timely excuse for my disappearance from the public eye. 

Other than the ghost that is haunting us and the effects of the COVID-19 around the world, life at the Retreat is still good.  Fortunately we are isolated in a rural area, not in a town or city, and we are  abiding by the self-quarantine and social distancing guidelines.  There have been no reported cases of the virus in our County.      

We have canceled our house concert live music series through May, and are holding off on canceling a June 29 show until we get closer and the musicians decide if they are going to be back on tour by then.  In the meantime, I am trying to share on social media the live-streaming videos and youtube videos I get from both musicians who have played at our house in the past and those who have been booked but are now postponed.  That is on facebook, on our OKLAHOMA HOUSE CONCERTS group page.  

AT HOME -- In addition to spending an hour a day writing, I am working on an "art" project, decopauging a gourd I want to put at the beginning of the “intuitive trail” that turns north off of the main trail to the back of our property.   

Since the two procedures to put in stents in a couple of major arteries of my heart, I have been doing really well as far an increased energy, ability to work outside and hike, and not falling unconscious and hitting my head on our cement floor! My blood pressure is normal most of the time and I continuously monitor it.  Ah, the flaws and wonders of modern medicine.  Who knew one could recover so well after being in some level of congestive heart failure for ten years!

April 2, 2020
Today is windy – 40 mph+ winds!  We may get storms tonight.  I need to work on the garden, getting it cleaned up and ready for planting spring crops, but allergies are really bad, especially with the high winds.   It is past the deadline for planting potatoes but still want to get some in the ground, along with carrots.  We have already planted some lettuces, salad mix, spinach, and cilantro.  We've foraged and found morel mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms.  Drew and Jenna are quite good cooks.  They made a hot and sour soup, served with basmati rice, for dinner one evening, and a shepherd pie with ground lamb from our freezer another evening. They have 8 sheep now and after slaughtering one already this year they are ready to sell a couple.  A sustainable herd is 6.  Two females had babies this past "season" - one had a single male and the other birthed a set of twins, one male and one female.  They are so CUTE!! 

Got the news that Ellis Marsalis Jr. passed away last night. from the COVID19 virus.  Of course, the news is sad, but it also reminded me of some good times Andy and I and some friends had down in New Orleans many years ago that unexpectedly involved Ellis Marsalis and his grandson, a young percussionist.Of course that story will be in one of my "memoirs".  There is so much to write about to cover my 66 years, I'm beginning to think it will take three or four "journal"-like FICTIONAL books.  Of course, all of the names will be changed to protect the innocent!

It's time for lunch, so I'll sign off here.  We here at the Chaparral Retreat hope everyone we know and who knows us is safe and staying well.  If anyone ever wants to skype or Zoom, or whatever other on-line platform is out there to communicate through (including an old fashioned phone call or a card in the mail), please contact me or Andy.  Home phone is 580-623-4269;   Andy's cell is 214-763-3823, and Linda's cell is 940-735-1065.  

/Linda and Andy 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

January is over.

A very busy week:
New guests at the Retreat, a trip to a nearby town (40 miles away) to see a potential singer/songwriter for an Oklahoma House Concert; Liquid Art date night at Whirlwind Winery, and a free art activity for kids and families making Valentine cards. And a last-minute visit from our poet/songwriter friend Nathan Brown who stopped in on his way to Colorado. What wonderful experiences!

 We had a good turnout at the Date Night, and everyone did a wonderful job on their painting of this landscape.  

 Today I'm going to do some writing on my book. 
The weather has been nice for winter, with one day of beautiful snow falling.

Today (Sunday), the temperature is supposed to get up to 70 degrees!  A good day to pick up pecans.  

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The end of 2019

December 28, 2019
It's been a whirlwind year for us at the Retreat.  We've kept busy with guests at the BnB,  made new friends and hosted returning guests, held house concerts at least once a month, had a few groups come over for wood-fired pizza dinners, and done lots of maintenance work on the house and yard.  And I'm not even going to get into my health/heart issues during the year!  

We still enjoy the gorgeous sunsets from the front porch on most evenings.

We just can't seem to let go of volunteering and both Andy and I are still serving on a few boards of nonprofits organizations.  After some serious health problems, I've promised myself I'm going to back off of some of those thankless and stressful positions this year. The things I enjoy most -- my gardens, working with children at the art center and the local public school, organizing the house concerts, and working with the Keep Oklahoma Beautiful group -- are going to be my priorities this year.  

Keep Oklahoma Beautiful gave Phoenix Circle Foundation a small grant for a teaching garden, and I got several local young people needing community service hours to help set up the garden and plant. We composted our kitchen scraps and added sheep and cow manure to amend the sandy soil and build up rows.  Another KOB project that we organized locally was the annual Great American Cleanup, with volunteers from the local high school, 4H, Mercy Hospital, Roman Nose State Park staff and members of Friends of Roman Nose State Park.  My efforts to get some recycling going in town are going well, with collection bins at RNSP General Store, the Watonga Airport office, and Hot Dog Joint in Watonga.  We have to take what we collect to a recycling center 40 miles away, but it's nice to get out of town -- kill two birds with one stone. 

KOB awarded Phoenix Circle Foundation their Environmental Excellence award of Affiliate of the Year for 2019.  Our foundation was chosen from cities, nonprofit groups, volunteer groups, civic clubs, from all 77 counties in Oklahoma.  What a surprise it was!  We were happy to bring the award to Watonga and share with all of the people who volunteered and helped us.

This summer we opened the Art center on Saturday afternoons for kids to come in and just create.  We provided all of the supplies, and it was so heart-warming to see how their interest in art and their confidence grew each time they came in.

Drew was commissioned to design and paint a statue of a bison for the nearby town of Okeene, and it as unveiled in November.   It stands outside of a gift shop called The Corner at the main intersection in Okeene. 

Drew has gone back to school at Southwestern Oklahoma State University to finish his degree and wants to teach art to young people.  He is great with kids. 

I was asked to do an art "curriculum" for three groups this year:  the high school "Eagle Flight" students,  the County 4-H kids, and the middle school gifted and talented students. Watonga ArtWorks then hosted an exhibit about Ledger Art during the Watonga Cheese Festival, and had a drawing for a copy of the book, "The Ledgerbook of Thomas Blue Eagle."

In October Andy and I got to take a trip to New Mexico, saw one of his old classmates and his wife, and attended a wedding at the Rio Grande Gorge.  We stayed at three different B&B's, in Albuquerque, Taos, and Santa Fe.  It was a true adventure .... a long story I won't include here.

Drew and Jenna are spending this holiday with Jenna's family back east (Tennessee and Maryland) with their dog, Martha.  Our dog Sadie misses all of them, as Andy and I do too.  We are staying home to take care of all of the animals -- dog, cats, and sheep.  Just before Drew and Jenna left town, one of their sheep dropped a lamb and we are expecting another any moment.  The lamb is just too cute to even try to describe!!  I'll post photos later.

We hope everyone's holidays are all you could wish for, and that the new year brings joy, peace, good health, and new adventures!!

Andy and Linda Barrett