Block Plan Living

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less travelled by,

and that has made all the difference.   

Robert Frost

“Your college decision is not permanent,” I lie. “If things don’t work out, you can always change your mind.”

It’s true that high school seniors can eventually transfer if the initial college they choose turns out to be a bad choice, but I think I may have underestimated the permanence of that first big adult decision.  It’s April, and this is the month that many of the soccer recruits I have come to know over the last six months are making a final decision about where they will be attending college next fall. When I was a senior in high school,  I knew well before April that I was going to go to Colorado College, but what I didn’t know was that Colorado College was going to become such a permanent part of who I am.

For those of you who are not CC alums, you may not fully appreciate what it is to live on a block plan, but let me try to explain.  Students at CC take one class at a time.  The class lasts for 3 1/2 weeks and for minimally 3 hours Monday through Friday.  It is an intense way to digest a semesters’ worth of material, but the focus is on one thing at a time, and thus one final at a time.  When the class is done, there is a Block Break that lasts from Thursday through Sunday, and then the next block starts.  Students take 8 blocks a year, although there are some classes that are two concurrent blocks long.  It is definitely not your typical college semester-plan, and I’m starting to realize that it has sculpted everything about my life.

Yes, I met my husband there, and of course the children who have joined us are a bi-product of our marriage, so undoubtedly my time at CC started the family that is now my life.  I do think, however, that the block plan style of living has had an even deeper impact on the way we operate.  We’re still on the block plan…it’s just a much larger version of it.

Our life on a yearly basis is made up of three blocks and a block break.  At the end of this month we will start  the longest and hardest block of the year.  From May through September, my husband is intensely focused on his “Work Block”.  He runs Renaissance Festivals, and that means that he leaves home to head back to Colorado for the summer and Pittsburgh in the fall.  Because of that, I have had to adapt, and that part of the year is my “Single-Parent Block”.  As the kids have grown, it has become easier, but it is still an intense block for all of us. We do eventually join my husband in Colorado, but the intensity of his job is not conducive to much family time.

I have to say, however, that I have also been able to immerse myself in my writing during the “Husband-Working Block”.  When my husband is home, I want nothing more than to hang out with him regularly and laugh often.  When he is gone, I shut myself up in my room and I don’t feel guilty about spending hours writing.

Block two starts when we return from Colorado.  This block includes my work, and unfortunately overlaps the Pittsburgh section of block one, but it is a truly enjoyable part of my year.  It is the intense college soccer season for the team I coach, and that lasts from mid-August through mid-November.  There is an intense need for childcare coordination and scheduling, but it has gotten easier with practice.

Once the “Husband-Working Block” and the “Wife-Coaching Block” are done, we head into the “Freezing Hockey Block.”  That third block is when my husband telecommutes for his real job and coaches college hockey in the afternoons.  He and I can do regular breakfasts, workout during the day and then get the kids shuffled everywhere they need to go. All three of the kids want to skate and play next year, so that block will be busy with ice rinks, and frozen ponds, skate-sharpenings and practices.  It is my favorite block of the year.

Then there is Block Break…Frank style.  When the “Freezing Hockey Block” is over, we have some time in March before my spring season and before my husbands’ departure.  Just like in college, we absolutely make the most of our block breaks!

It is definitely not the typical household, but just like CC, atypical can be great.  We soak up the variety that each block brings, and we have the luxury of saying that the block will eventually end.  We  trudge through those blocks that are difficult because we know they are not going to last forever.  We can see the new block on the horizon and the block break out in the distance.  It is not a lifestyle that suits everyone, but what I wonder is whether my husband and I would live like this had we not made the decision to attend CC?  Who am I kidding…if either of us had chosen not to go to CC, we never would have met, and I can hardly fathom what my life would be like.  College decision… schmollege decision.  It doesn’t really matter, right!?!

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