I don’t have to worry about going up and down stairs. I don’t have to worry about – as much as I like to mow the lawn and work in the yard – I don’t have to worry about “how will that get done?” And the same with snow. I don’t have to worry about the steps. I can just get up, do whatever I want and if I feel like doing nothing, that’s what I do, nothing. I come, I go as I please. I check in every morning on the telephone. And I’m just so satisfied and so happy. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this happy.
Dottie Schroeder Interview, August 2014
Interview starts at 5:23
J: Hello there, this is Jill Hofer at Watermark in Tucson.
D: This is Dottie Schroeder from Watermark in Connecticut.
J: Oh great, hi, how are you?
D: I’m fine thank you, how are you?
J: Oh good, I’m fine thank you, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today.
D: You’re very welcome.
J: I appreciate it, well we have a few questions and really it’s just all about your story and there’s no right or wrong answers. We’re just hoping to help people make that decision, whatever is right for them, wherever they end up we just want them to think about their choices and not feel stuck in that house they’ve been in for twenty or so years.
D: I totally agree with that.
J: Oh great, well if you don’t mind if we could start by you just telling us the story of when you first started thinking about making the move and how the process unfolded.
D: I started to look, I lost my husband February 13th of 2011 and actually started looking in the late spring and I was having some very serious medical issues and I came out and looked at the Watermark. I looked at several other places, however I would either go home and call the marketing department or I would just come here and then go home and for some reason, every time I looked at a different place, I always came back to the Watermark because I felt like it was the right place for me. It had everything I would’ve ever wanted, independent living, the skilled nursing facility, the wonderful staff and being able to eat in the main dining room at night. I don’t miss cooking however I like to cook and bake so I thought about that for several months and I went out and looked at a couple more places and I came back home and I called and talked to Denise and she asked me a couple questions. I said, “I’m not really through right now with what I want to do” but she said because she could she call me again in about a month and I told her “yes.” And that’s how everything went, up until December 2011, that’s when I decided that my home was much too big for me, the upstairs, downstairs, the basement and, after falling down a flight of stairs I didn’t like stairs anymore, so I made a decision right after Christmas in 2011. And I went through the whole process and to me it was very simple and easy. Plus, my home was only on the market for two days and it sold for list price so that was very good for me. I didn’t have to worry about how I would move to the Watermark or another place similar so I made my decision and then in 2012 after I came here I had some very bad falls and broke my wrists and my nose and I spent a lot of time in the hospital both in 2012 and 2013 but I’m happy to say that I’ve been home from St. Vincent’s Hospital and Watermark Rehab since July 8th, 2013 and I have not had to go back.
J: Oh, that’s terrific.
D: I am perfectly totally healed and that has made my whole life a different, I have a totally different perspective right now. If it weren’t for my mother, my two very, very dear friends plus some other friends and the staff here at The Watermark I would not – and I emphasize I would not – be where I am today.
D: Through all the prayers and through my perseverance and being positive I got through everything. I am pleasantly cancer free, I’ve learned how to talk again, how to eat, how to swallow. You know we all take so much for granted and when all of a sudden you can’t eat it poses a problem but now I’m eating most everything and I’m quite happy. I’m happy I moved here, I’ve made lots of new friends. I’m very close to Denise and the other two gals in marketing, to Carol and to the nurses and rehab and so a lot of residents I’ve just made friends with and I would not ever plan to leave here and go back to a big house. This is just right for me, the cottage, I have the perfect thing, I have the independent living plus I have all the amenities of The Watermark which is wonderful. If I don’t want to drive or when I couldn’t drive, I had transportation to take me to doctors’ appointments etcetera and I’m just extremely happy, extremely grateful to be where I am today and to have made such bonded relationships here at The Watermark and with my mother.
J: Oh, that’s fantastic.
D: My mother will be ninety-two tomorrow.
J: Oh, really? Wow.
D: She’s out in Arizona; she’s in a group assisted living. I went out there in May; I don’t particularly like where she’s at. Out there they do a lot of things in like private homes and she has just a room about the size of my den in my cottage and it kind of bothered me when I was out there. And I did call several places; I talked to Emeritus of Chandler, Emeritus of Mesa. I’m going out next March and I’m going to try to take her to see some of these places because I lived here and even though I’m independent I know how the other side of it works. I would like to see if I can get my mother moved when I go out next year. So that’s one thing I’m going to be working on and for right now people stopped calling me because I said there wasn’t going to be a decision for a while. And because I live here and I know how wonderful it is I can relate that to my mom. And when I mentioned that to my mom she says to me “I’m so happy that you’re so happy” and that does mean a lot.
J: Oh, it definitely does.
D: I mean I feel like a new Dottie, I feel like the person I was ten years ago.
J: Well, that’s priceless.
D: Plus I have God in my life and I’ve been writing prayers. He also helped me get better too. He was always right next to me.
J: Well, that’s wonderful, I really appreciate that.
D: Oh, you’re so welcome.
J: Did you live in Connecticut for most of your life?
D: I grew up in Fairfield, I went to school in Fairfield, I went off to business college and got a job and I met my first husband and we were married and we lived in Westport for twenty-three years, and he passed away after twenty-six years of marriage. I finally went to a widow group in eighty-nine and that’s where I met Don, my second husband. And he gave me the best twenty-four years of my life I could have ever expected to get from such a wonderful, wonderful guy. I’ve had a happy life. I feel truly blessed to have a wonderful mom and dad even though I’ve lost my twin sister and brother. We had a nice family growing up. My sister and I always felt special and so did my brother from the wonderful mom and dad we had in the things and hard times in the 50s and 60s that we would say “well, why can’t I do this?” “Well, because I’m not so and so’s mother and you can’t do it” so you just listened to your mother.
J: That’s right.
D: But I’m very happy, extremely happy.
J: And you moved to the Watermark in January of 2013?
D: No, no, end of March 2012.
J: Oh, ok, end of March 2012.
D: So I’ll be here two and a half years at the end of September.
J: How is life different for you there than it was back at the house?
D: Well, I don’t have to worry about going up and down stairs. I don’t have to worry about – as much as I like to mow the lawn and work in the yard – I don’t have to worry about “how will that get done?” And the same with snow. I don’t have to worry about the steps. I can just get up, do whatever I want and if I feel like doing nothing, that’s what I do, nothing. I come, I go as I please. I check in every morning on the telephone. And I’m just so satisfied and so happy. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this happy.
J: Oh, that’s terrific.
D: In the last four years I had brain surgery, I had fractured vertebrae, I had cancer surgery so I’ve come a long way and it’s only because of my attitude.
J: Oh, that’s fantastic and that applies to all of us. We all need to take a page from that book.
D: I know when I got to where I couldn’t eat you never realize that you take so much for granted when you have to learn how to talk again, how to eat, how to swallow. It’s a big challenge but I’ve done it over the last two years and I am perfectly fine right now. I’m happy and I’m content and I do enjoy going over for dinner. I don’t want to go if the weather’s bad like in the winter, I’ll stay home, usually you know when a storm is coming so I’ll make like stuffed peppers, I’ll make something in my crockpot and I have food to eat but I do enjoy going over for dinner. I like making jam, I made all kinds of jam this year. I made peach, I made apricot, I made strawberry, I made more apricot, I made strawberry rhubarb and I made peach. I’m all done making jam for this year. And Tracy Ann in activities she asked me in mid-October if I would be willing to do a short talk on how I learned how to make jam and what the process is of doing it so I’m doing that on November 19th.
J: Oh that’s great, I’m not a bit surprised that she asked you, that was actually going to be my next question.
D: Yeah, they asked me so. I have a lot of patience and you have to enjoy it because it’s a big process. And the one that takes the longest is making the peach. Apricot you just take the pits out and put them all in the pot with the sugar and lemon and cook it and peach is the hardest one to make because you have to peel the peaches and put them in boiling water, blanch them, put them in boiling water and take them out in the skins slide right off.
J: Oh, that’s handy.
D: Like when you do tomatoes if you’re making sauce, the same thing put the tomatoes in boiling hot water as soon as the skins start to split take them out and put them in ice cold water and then cut them up into the jars for canning.
D: Jam is fun to make.
J: That’s wonderful. Do you take any classes or partake in any of the programs there?
D: No, I just learned it from my mother. Here I’m not a reader but I’ve started participating in activities because I’m so much better this year. I have gone to a lot of the activities they have here, I went to the casino a couple weeks ago. I go over for the different seminars they have and I enjoy it very much.
J: Do you take any exercise programs there?
J: No. Go to the club or go to the café?
D: I go to the café, I go to the diner. I don’t participate in the exercise program because I have hip replacements and they can every so often dislocate so I’m not allowed to do certain machines. I just kind of do what I’ve been doing all my life, eat healthy, stay healthy and as long as my clothes fit me I don’t worry about it.
J: That works.
D: That works for me.
J: And how else do you spend your days, do you?
D: I do a lot of work on my computer.
J: Oh really, like?
D: I do all my medical, dental, pharmacy. I do that and a spreadsheet on the computer so at the end of the year I can just print it out and give it to my tax accountant. And what else do I do? I like to bake, I like to cook, I like to sit on my screened in porch and do nothing.
D: That’s what I did yesterday, nothing.
D: I enjoy it very much. I make projects, I keep myself very busy. Like the other day I decided I should clean my desk off, I hasn’t been cleaned it since I moved here, it took me two hours. I took everything off the desk, I dusted it, I put everything back so now it’s perfectly neat the way I like everything.
J: And it’s ready for your next project.
D: I was looking for a blouse I can’t find, it’s somewhere in my house so I’m planning now to go on a big trip, I’m going to Europe on September 6th. I’m going on a cruise and it’s fifteen nights and fourteen days. I leave Saturday, September 6th, I fly to Madrid and then to Amsterdam and the ship leaves Amsterdam on the 7th and we go to Brussels, Belgium, Antwerp, Dover England, Madrid and Seville Spain (inaudible) ports of call Rock of Gibraltar and our flight home from Barcelona.
D: So next week I’m going to get my luggage out and start putting things in there. So I’m excited.
J: You should be.
D: It’ll be my first big trip by myself.
J: Oh, that’s amazing.
D: I did go to Arizona but I was going to see my mother so yes that’s family, but it was a trip but it isn’t like where I’m going to go now. I don’t know anybody. But I’m very outgoing and I make friends easily. So I’m excited.
J: I love it. So that will keep you busy planning for that and then certainly you will be busy afterwards and I bet Tracy Ann will ask you to show your slides and share the experience.
D: I’m sure she will, yeah, I love to travel. I like to be up and about and out.
J: And these are the kind of things that really you have time for once you move from the big old house and you don’t have the big to do list.
D: One thing I like the most about being at The Watermark is the comprehensive activities that they have for everyone that lives here and you never have to worry about “where am I going to get my next meal?,How am I going to get to this place?” I don’t worry about those things anymore. I get to wherever I have to go. Either I take myself or someone takes me from The Watermark so I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to get to church, etcetera. I feel very secure here, very quiet, I love my cottage, it’s just the perfect place for me.
J: What made you choose the cottages?
D: Well, number one was I never ever in my life lived in a big apartment building and when I looked at the apartments I felt closed in and so I looked at six other places and Denise showed me the cottages and I fell in love with them as soon as I walked in. And it was just like almost an immediate decision this is where I wanted to go, to a place like this. I just love the cottages, they’re so unique, the right thing for me.
J: That’s terrific, it’s wonderful when things work out in the way that you can see what’s right for you.
D: This is right because I don’t have to worry about up and down the stairs and falling and etcetera and I really don’t miss my home.
J: How long did you say you were there at your house?
D: Twenty-four years.
J: What don’t you miss, all the work?
D: Yeah, the work, the stairs I don’t miss any of that.
J: That’s terrific because for some people I think that’s their biggest barrier.
J: What advice do you have for people who are out there in the world wondering what they should do for their next move or what’s good for them?
D: Go out and find places and make appointments and go to them and, you know, look at several other places before making any kind of the decision, talk to your family, kind of talk to yourself and figure out what I don’t have to do and I do have to do and just kind of take it from that point forward. For me, it was right after Christmas in 2011 that I was looking to get out of this big house, four bedrooms and big yard and the decision was easy for me. I just went back to every place I had looked at and I ended up here at The Watermark. And I can’t say that I regret any of it.
J: Terrific, and the people around you, you know, you’re friends and family.
D: And the neighbors are wonderful. In fact Amy Davidoff lives next door, I used to work for her husband.
D: And Denise, when I met her, I said “I used to work with the girl whose last name was (inaudible).” It was her sister-in-law.
D: How funny that is.
J: Small world.
D: Yes it is, very small world. And the neighbors are nice> Everybody’s good to me and I’m good to them.
J: Well, that’s a good way to play it, everybody should be that way but we all have to make an extra effort sometimes.
D: Yeah everyone tells me, even people I don’t know, what an inspiration I am to others.
J: How wonderful.
D: I was told three years ago after my brain surgery that I may never walk again, I may never do this again and I do everything plus.
J: No kidding.
D: It’s been a long struggle but I made a new life and I’m extremely happy. And all those dark days I never realized how depressed I was and they’re all gone. I just follow myself in my new journey in life and I enjoy it. Plus, I do write prayers.
J: That’s amazing, do you do anything with your writing, like share with others?
D: I’m in the process of doing that right now.
J: Oh really?
D: I’ve had some printed on, you know, like the cards you get in the mail. The one I have printed now is the front is purple with a cross in the middle and at the bottom I have “God is love, God is joy, God is forever.” Then there’s two prayers inside it and they have several other ones that I’m waiting to be printed for me. And I’m going to try to publish them.
J: I love that.
D: So that’s exciting for me. When I lost my first husband, one of my friends said, “What a beautiful note, how did you know what to write?” And I said “I just did, I picked up a pen and wrote.” This goes back like thirty years ago. I just enjoy doing things like that, I enjoy helping others, I enjoy sharing my prayers and stuff with others.
J: That’s wonderful, that’s terrific.
D: There is a short prayer I wrote, it’s “come and enter the journey, come and take my hand, come and enter the journey and perhaps make a new friend then we all can see what the world would be when we share God’s (inaudible).”
D: And there’s another one I know by heart. “A Christmas prayer. My first Christmas in heaven, I see all the wonders of Christmas, trees all around, the world glowing so beautifully down in the white snow, I see the blinking lights and stars, which now cast a rainbow on the snow, now remember dear, wipe away that tear because I’m going to spend my Christmas with Jesus Christ this year, I sent you a little gift from me, I want you to hold it tender and dear, and every time you squeeze it together that means we’re in each other’s arms for eternity, I’ll kiss you once, I’ll kiss you twice, I’ll be back again, hold me tight and kiss me twice and I’ll be extra nice. Now it’s my turn to hold you tight and kiss you twice and then we’ll call it a night.”
J: Wow, I love that.
D: Thank you.
J: Thank you for saying that.
D: Oh, you’re very welcome.
J: What a wonderful thing to share with everyone, do you send to your friends and family?
D: Yes. Yep I do and a lot of people at the Watermark have my card and now marketing has it. I’m not sure what Denise if she sent it to other people but it did go to marketing, I did send it over there. I still have some left I can send you one if you’d like me.
J: That would be great, do you mind if I ask Tracy to stop by?
D: Yes, talk to Tracy.
J: Ok, I will. Thank you.
D: You’re welcome.
J: Thank you, that’s very generous of you.
D: Oh, you are most welcome. Everyone’s been that kind to me here and they’ve been very generous to me and I will live for forever and ever and ever.
J: It feels so great when you find the right place, I feel sorry for people who kind of take too long or are just unable to make those decisions. When you did move, did you feel that it was just the right time or…?
J: You did?
D: It was the right time and then, when I was in the hospital so much in 2012 and last year,I was finally lying in bed one day and thinking, “Did I make a mistake?” And I realized this: “Dottie don’t be so stupid. You made the right move,” and I’ve never looked back since.
J: That’s super.
D: It was the right time for me. Watermark has everything I wanted right here and that’s why picked The Watermark.
J: Well, we’re glad that you did, what an awesome community that you are. Well thank you for the inspiration and all your information.
D: Oh, you’re most welcome.
J: I’m going to focus on my attitude for the rest of the day and beyond.
D: Well I’m happy I could do that for you.
J: Thank you.
D: You’re welcome.
J: Please expect a call or for Tracy Ann to stop by because I’m going to take you up on your offer to share that poem, I appreciate that.
D: Oh you are most welcome.
J: Thank you and have a beautiful weekend.
D: I enjoyed speaking with you and hopefully when you’re here one day visiting maybe I can be introduced to you.
J: I would love that, I would love to see your cottage.
D: I would love to have you see it.
J: Thank you, thank you so much.
D: You are most welcome, have a nice weekend and enjoy this weather.
J: Likewise, you as well.
D: Ok thank you, have a nice day.