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"