Sunday, December 31, 2017

End of Year 2017

2017 has been a good year--productive, sometimes stressful, but overall I feel like I've accomplished a lot both in my business ventures, in my writing, and in stress and my health management. Though I got hit with the flu at the end of this year, my health has generally been good all year. I haven't been as consistent as I would have liked to have been this past year in several areas, but think I am getting the hang of managing my time among all of the things I want to do and, if I wanted to call it a new year's resolution, it would be to put some of the ideas I've read and learned this past year into practice in the coming year. Today I'm going to try and catch up on this blog!  Most of this end of year update has been posted at some time during the year on facebook.

Andy and I and our family want to wish everyone a safe and happy new year celebration and success in 2018 in all of your endeavors!

We are still working on building our clientele for the Bed & Breakfast but pretty much stay as busy as we want to. It is such a treat for us to meet new people, make new friends, and catch up with returning guests. All of our "advertising" is on social media or word-of-mouth, with, TripAdvisor, and Google searches bringing us guests looking for a special experience. We have a great relationship with the Park Lodge staff and management and we each refer potential guests back and forth. There is a new Park manager and a new Park Ranger at Roman Nose State Park and we look forward to working with them, both in promoting their programs and attracting more people to this tucked-away treasure in rural Blaine County. 

Our "Oklahoma House Concert series" has attracted many talented musicians to come out to the Chaparral Retreat to perform, and our audience is growing.  We've been working with the owners of the Whirlwind Winery in downtown Watonga to "cross-promote" our businesses.  They bring in lots of people from the OKC metro area through their wine & cheese pairing Groupons, and Brad and Don (owners) allow us to promote our B&B and the House Concerts at their storefront on Main St.  We have even held a couple of house concerts at the winery, trying to get more visitors to the Watonga downtown area.  

Brian Pounds and Grace Pettis 


We haven't done any Liquid ART classes this year but did provide supplies and art instruction for two local fundraisers -- one for a woman's medical expenses and one for a Relay for Life team. Mainly, we have been focusing on the music series and renovating the building next to the Winery on Main St. Watonga in order to open an Art Gallery/Creative Space. Andy has made lots of progress this year with the help of Drew and several volunteers. Phoenix Circle Foundation received a small grant from Walmart and I've submitted several other grant applications that we hope to hear from in January. The space is coming together slowly but surely, and we want to have it ready for some children's art projects and to use as a live music venue by Mid-March. In order to do that, I do a lot of "begging"/fundraising, and praying for that special "angel" -- a local business person or corporation who can see our vision for Main Street to become a year-around tourist destination and is willing to invest in the community with a significant philanthropic gift to Phoenix Circle Foundation.

We are thankful for the individuals who support our efforts and support the arts with their donations and attendance at activities and events we have held over the year, including the house concerts. This past year we had at least one house concert a month, held a sidewalk chalk art activity for children in town, and gave away free school supplies to local children/families. PIONEER TELEPHONE and Geary resident Kaye Base donated to our effort to encourage youth to pursue art experiences with a $250 scholarship to a high school student in May. I've worked with the high school counselors and art teachers in the schools in Blaine County that have some kind of arts program -- music or visual arts -- to raise awareness about Phoenix Circle Foundation's mission.
This summer we held an art auction and house concert as a fundraiser, featuring Brian Pounds and Grace Pettis from Austin providing some awesome music, and works of art donated by several Oklahoma artists for us to sell. Both the Whirlwind Winery and K&R Liquor provided some adult beverages, and we had Bedre' chocolate for our guests. We cannot say "thank you" enough to everyone who helped make this small event a success. I've posted our thanks on all of our facebook pages, but we can never thank these awesome and generous people enough!

This is all I have strength to write today -- I may edit later, but for now, I hope everyone is able to stay healthy, warm, and safe at the start of the new year!!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

December 14, 2017

TODAY ANDY AND I ARE CELEBRATING OUR 37th ANNIVERSARY.   We are blessed and happy to be where we are in life.  Last night Sadie woke me up around 3:45 a.m., wanting to go outside. While I waited for her to finish her business, I was for some reason inspired to get out my journal and hand-write a poem: 

"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 we will live our life and what we get out of it.
But nobody gets out of here alive." (c) Linda Barrett 12/2017

I thank Nathan Brown for spending time with me after his show on Monday night and inspiring me to write.  And I thank Dylan Stewart for his support and encouragement for me to pursue (and hopefully accomplish) one of the items on my bucket list, and his willingness to help make it happen.  His songwriting also inspires me to write.  All of the musicians who have come to our place to perform have left a piece of themselves here that I can think about when I get off track.  I can't list them all here, but they know who they are, from locals Katie Ballew-Lyle and Vernon Brickman  to TJ George from Columbus, Ohio and Caroline Cotter from Maine.  We've had quite a ride this past year, and it's not over yet!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

End of year House Concert

 Dec. 11, 2017
Chaparral Retreat, Whirlwind Winery, and Phoenix Circle Foundation were honored to host Nathan Brown at the Whirlwind Winery on Monday evening. We had great conversation, music, some poetry reading, and, of course Wine with a great group of people who came out on a weeknight to support an important goal: Bring more of the Arts to rural Oklahoma!   This show was the last Oklahoma House Concert for 2017, and as you can see from Nathan's post below, his next to last for the year. 
Our thanks go to Nathan for his time, wisdom, and inspiration; to Brad for the wine, and to friends who shared this special time with us and supported the arts with their presence and donations.

Nathan has published several books, available on Amazon and at Mezcalita Press LLC. Check out Nathan Brown-The Poetry Page on facebook and "Like" his page. 

Oklahoma House Concerts is "on the map" and attracting more and more musicians to come out and play in a special place, with more visitors from out of town coming to have a unique and intimate experience. 
After the show at the Winery on Monday, I spent time chatting with Nathan at the house. We stayed up way past my usual bedtime and talked about writing, inspirations, rituals, publishing, the potential we have in the small town where I live to have a fabulous place for the arts, music, writing, storytelling, workshops .... we were in a mind-meld. I want to put everything else I am involved in away in a box and just write. I have a few more things to get done this year, and then I may consider dropping everything else, staying in my cozy bedroom and just writing, try to finish one project. Winter is a good time for that, for me, because I hate cold weather and tend to spend a lot of time indoors anyway.  One thing Nathan told me he does everyday as part of his morning "ritual" is write one poem.  I'm going to incorporate that into my morning routine.   Here is what I wrote today: 

"Valerie jerks forward as she passes me, like the startled feral cats she lives with. Food and water are her only needs other than the occasional accidental brush against someone’s leg when she chooses to be near people. Though she was out on the street today, I guess she wasn't in the mood for human touch.  She isn’t seen much around town these days. I believe she’s found her place in the world, a kind of solitude among her feline friends. I wonder who puts out food and water for them all now." 

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Nov. 26, 2017 - November color 

We've had a whirlwind weekend, between Thanksgiving Day activities and visiting with guests on Friday, Saturday, and today.  We shared Thanksgiving dinner with a friend of Drew's, played a board game, cooked, ate too much, and cleaned up the kitchen.  Spent Friday a.m. cleaning rooms for incoming guests, a young couple who were having their wedding ceremony in OKC at their home church on Friday afternoon and then coming out to the Retreat for the weekend.  What a joy they were to meet and interact with.   They had made a reservation for the New Mexico room, and they had the bedroom end of the house to themselves.  Throughout the weekend we shared stories and blessings.  They were both a joy to be around. 
      On Saturday morning I made oatmeal and set out  small bowls with "fixings" -- pecan pieces, raisins, spiced apple slices, brown sugar, cinnamon,  honey, and toast.  They invited me to join them for breakfast and we shared a long leisurely meal with conversation that led into lunchtime.  They shared food that they had brought with them, left over from the wedding party--homemade hummus, pita bread, fruit salad, wedding cake.  Andy left the house to go to the OU football game, so he missed out on the lunch goodies.  After lunch, the guests were interested in seeing our kids' building project so we headed up the hill.  It was a beautiful, partly sunny and warm afternoon and we ended up hiking quite a ways around the property.   Sadie ran with us and wore herself out.  It was 3:00 pm before we got back into the house.  I relaxed and read for a while, and the couple went out to Roman Nose State Park where they spent a couple of hours. 
    On Saturday evening, we were all sitting down for dinner and more conversation-- they had brought food and used our kitchen to cook their dinner;  I hate Thanksgiving leftovers - pork loin, mashed potatoes, and broccoli.  I also set out the jalapeno/cranberry salsa I had made and shared it with our guests. 
    After we had finished our dinner and were sitting around the table visiting, there was a knock on the front door and a couple walked in.  The woman, Rita, said "Are we in the right place?"   I invited them in and walked over to them, asked how I could help them. My first thought was "Oh no, did I take a reservation from someone and not write it on the calendar?"  Before I could ask if they had a reservation with us,  Rita asked if we had a room for the evening.  They introduced themselves as Chuck and Rita, told me that they had been to the State Park Lodge, just travelling through on a whim.  The Lodge was full, but the desk clerk told them about our place "around the corner".  We always have a sign on the front porch that says "COME ON IN", and so when they saw that they did what the sign said to do -- they walked right in!  We all had a good laugh. 
     I checked our calendar (to make sure I hadn't made a reservation for someone and not written it down), saw nothing booked, and then asked Rita and Chuck if they would have a seat while I checked to see if we had a room "ready", meaning cleaned and ready for a guest.  Fortunately the Texas room was clean and ready, just needed some towels put into the bathroom.  I took Rita and Chuck down the hall to see the room, quoted them a price, and they decided to stay.  We all had another laugh when they told me they didn't have any luggage, that they had decided to get into the car that afternoon and "wing it".  They had eaten dinner at the Lodge and asked about a room. Had the desk clerk not told them about our place, they would have gotten back on the road and driven to Oklahoma City.
    I'M STOPPING HERE FOR A BREAK --- I NEED TO REST MY EYES.  There is more to the story of this weekend, so check back tomorrow to finish reading ....... /Linda

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Nov. 23, 2017
Today is supposed to be a nice day outdoors, with temperatures in the 60's.  I don't pay too much attention to the TV weather forecasts other than to get a general idea of temperature and possible rain on a day-to-day basis;  each TV weatherman has a different take from hour to hour.  We have two outside thermometers, one outside my bedroom window on the north side of the house under the patio cover, and the second outside the kitchen window on the southwest side of the house.

We are having a nice quiet Thanksgiving at home.  Andy's making a pork loin, Drew is making mashed potatoes and a butternut squash soup, Jenna is making deviled eggs and appetizer plate, I am making a jalapeno/cranberry salsa and roasted garlic broccoli.  Andy's made a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie. 

I started the day with quiet reflection and thankfulness for all of our blessings. There have been some tough times to get through but we've also had lots of support for what we are doing with our business, house concerts, the proposed art center.  I am learning to let go of the negative remarks, threats, and small town gossip, and focus on doing what our family can accomplish and not on what we can't change. Our friends and supporters, both local and people who come here from out of town and out of state, far outnumber the small group of naysayers. And I can look back over the year and see that my reaction to things and outlook have made me happier and less stressed.  Yes, I still catch myself thinking "unbelievable" when I see, hear, or read some of the silliness and pettiness that goes on in the world, but I am quicker to shut out those thoughts and look toward the good in the world. 

After checking my facebook pages, emails, wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, expressing thanks to all of our friends, family and supporters, I plan on spending some time playing with our puppy, Sadie.  She's a hoot - runs around like a greyhound, jumps and twirls like a whirling dervish, will take a sock with a ball in it and swing it around and then throw it, like a shotput. I'm going to try and record her and post it to facebook.

I continually have our building project on my mind.  Raising money to finish the building and open the art center is my full-time job.  In reviewing the budget for the project for a grant application, I was surprised by the numbers -- we've invested $25,000 of our own money, have raised $4,000 in donations and grants, and still need about $25,000 to make it into a classy place that our community can be proud of.  But for today, I'm putting all of that aside and enjoying the day with friends and family!  HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!!
/Linda  (not proofread)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Walmart Foundation awards Grant to Phoenix Circle Foundation

We are so happy to receive notice today that Walmart Foundation is awarding a grant of $500.00 for our efforts to renovate the building on Main St. that will eventually be an arts center for our community and visitors to our area. 

It is very encouraging to see a business that doesn't have a presence in our town still be willing to promote and help with a project that benefits our community and its residents.  I realize a lot of people were disappointed when Walmart shut down their store in Watonga, and probably just as many were not.  I am glad that the charitable foundation doesn't base its philanthropy on where it has stores but on where there is need. 

PS:  This grant money will pay for the brickwork on the front of the building at 111 E. Main St. in Watonga.  Masonry is probably one of the few things Andy doesn't feel confident in doing himself so we hired a guy who did a really good job.  Drive by and look at it sometime!!.

Monday, November 20, 2017


My focus these days is writing grant application essays. Following is a collaboration between me and my husband for the #MyGivingStory grant contest for Phoenix Circle Foundation-- it's his perspective, with my editing.

After WWII, my dad looked for a place to set up his business and raise a family, and an opportunity presented itself in the small rural town of Watonga, OK. It was primarily a farming community when we moved there. As men and women returned from their service during the war, business opportunities were abundant, and Watonga grew in population and commerce. It was also the County Seat and there were always people coming and going to and from our small town for county government business. My parents were “no nonsense” and lived the traits of kindness, generosity, helpfulness, and civic responsibility. They set good examples for us as involved members of the community in leadership positions in our church, the city government, civic clubs and Chamber of Commerce, and the schools. I remember as a preteen and then as a teenager that we had a very good life.
I left Watonga to go to college, and then began to look for a job. By the 1980’s my hometown had lost many of its businesses and there were no jobs to be had for someone with my education and skills. I settled in Dallas where I had a 30-year career and raised a family. Each time I visited family back in Watonga over those years, I witnessed the further descent of what was once a thriving family-centered community into a slowly dying small town, like many rural small towns. Each time I visited, my earlier-made decision to never live in Watonga was reinforced.

But God works in mysterious ways, and at the right time I ended up buying my family home outside the city limits of Watonga, where my wife and I would live in our retirement. As my parents had taught me, I felt a duty to be involved in the community and work with residents to make things better. My wife and I volunteered to help with any event, fundraiser, community activity or church need whenever asked. We donated money whenever asked. We both recognized the poverty and lack of opportunities for the children and families in the community other than church or school sponsored activities. Art education was not part of the school curriculum. There was no community center. Tennis courts and basketball courts were in disrepair and not being used. Many children were left on their own with no adult supervision either because of family poverty or because they weren’t involved in sports. We presented suggestions to the city and to the Chamber of Commerce on ways to help raise the standard of living in the town and provide activities for its residents. We had small successes.

My wife was not a person who gave up easily. She worked with a nonprofit organization, Phoenix Circle Foundation, and led programs in partnership with our church, the County Extension Service 4H club, the Chamber of Commerce, and a non-profit family services organization. She led art classes for children attending Vacation Bible School, with Phoenix Circle Foundation providing all supplies. She volunteered to read to children, both at the elementary school and as an after-school program at our church. She organized a free school supply giveaway, funded by Phoenix Circle Foundation and donations of supplies from people in the community. While on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, she helped start a Farmer’s Market and manned it every Saturday during the growing season. She worked with the County Extension Service to use grant funds they had available for a Community Garden, presented a plan for a Garden to the Methodist church council to use an empty lot owned by the church for the Garden space. Our family spent many days and hours preparing the ground and setting up raised beds, planting and nurturing the vegetable garden.

My wife is on the Board of Directors of the non-profit Phoenix Circle Foundation and is the driving force behind it. She has recruited board members, one of whom is a long-time resident with young children, the other a retired school teacher. I know I am biased, but I also know that my wife works endlessly to give the children and the community of Watonga a better life. I know that her motivation comes from growing up poor and not having the opportunities that we were able to provide for our own children.

We hope you’ll support our efforts through #GivingTuesday by voting for Phoenix Circle Foundation at, OR with a donation through our GoFundMe campaign.
/Written by Andy Barrett –edited by Linda Barrett"