Dating Jazz


Jazz and I have been in the midst of an all out “all-purpose cleaner” war. You know, all-purpose cleaner. The stuff you spray down your counters with when you clean. We have been having a slight disagreement about what product we should be using in our home. You see, I am a little bit of a skeptic. Also a little bit of a hippie. I am terrified that the chemicals inside those bottles of all-purpose cleaner (or any type of cleaner that uses chemicals) are going to kill us, or give us dementia and cancer. And let’s not even mention what they do to the earth. In my opinion, it is not necessary to use chemicals for everyday cleaning. I mean, on occasion, for a tough clean or to keep all the white clothing I wear bright, I can permit a little chemical action (I am no purest). But for everyday cleaning I had been making my own all-purpose cleaner out of white vinegar, a couple drops of dish soap and some essential oil (to cover up the vinegar smell –because Jazz HATES the smell of vinegar). And I was feeling pretty proud of myself. We were saving money, saving the earth, effectively cleaning the house, and not dying.

Until one day…
We were doing one of our “oh my god, friends are coming over and our house is trashed” kind of cleaning binges when Jazz just disappeared. Twenty minutes later, he walks in the door. I was not particularly paying attention because my head was in the closet putting away piles of laundry. I walk into the kitchen when the smell overwhelms me.

Is that bleach?
What are you doing?
Cleaning the kitchen.
With bleach?
Yep. That other crap you were using doesn’t clean and it stinks.
What?!! It cleans perfectly well and smells better than BLEACH!!!!! (Stacy walks away with steam spewing from her ears)

It’s fine. He just wants to get the house really clean at the moment. It’s not for everyday. I’ll just make some more vinegar cleaner. It’s fine.

The next morning, Willow is sitting at the table, waiting to be fed, while our new bleach cleaner is being misted all over the table in front of her.


What are you doing?
Cleaning the kitchen.
With bleach?
In front of our daughter?
You are going to kill us!!!!!

I got so mad, I hid the bleach cleaner in a conspicuous location after Jazz left the house. But, when I went to go make a new batch of my healthy, non-toxic, vinegar based, all-purpose cleaner, I found that Jazz had thrown out the spray bottle I used to make it.

It would be so nice if the person you are in a relationship with was exactly like you. That they shared all the same values and had the same style and liked the same food. It would be convenient if you each loved what the other person loved and just wanted to spend your time doing and learning about the things that the other person loves to do. And in some cases, this can be partly true but in most cases it is not.

There is an unhealthy and misplaced idea in our culture that in order to have a successful relationship you need to be similar people. And if one individual changes, the relationship is in danger (hence the term, “you’ve changed” in any romantic drama). But this idea disrespects the humanity of the person you love. Every human is different and a healthy relationship is seeing all there is about a person (even the things you don’t like or agree with) and respecting them enough to let them be the way they are without feeling you need to change them (or change who you are to be like them). Besides, if that idea was true, we [Jazz and I] are in some serious trouble, because you can tell by just looking at us that we are our own individuals. Jazz dresses straight out of an episode off “the Fresh Prince of Bellaire” (if you’re too young to understand, that means he wears bright, vibrant colors and patterns and picks his hair) while I am a bit of a minimalist and literally own nothing but black and white.

Yesterday evening I came home from work. The house was spotless, the laundry was done and Jazz and had been busting his ass all day to get some important work done. I felt immeasurably grateful for all he had done so that our weekend might be spent with more hours of time together (and let’s be honest– watching some Netflix) rather than cleaning the house. Then he said he bought something for me, and he handed me a bottle of all-purpose cleaner.

What is this?
It’s Green Works. It’s a “green” all-purpose cleaner.
Because you don’t like using the bleach cleaner.
Yeah, but I really want to use my vinegar cleaner.
I thought this would be a good middle ground.

Honestly, I was still a little frustrated, ( the same people who Green Works make the bleach cleaner after all!) but given a moment to think about it, I felt adored. Jazz was acting out of love and respect. He wanted the house “clean” but he also wanted me to feel safe and heard. By accepting this gift of Green Works I was showing love and respect to Jazz, understanding that using vinegar to clean our counters made him uncomfortable. It is things like the bottle of Green Works that is the key to successful relationships. Not that one person changes for what the other person wants or that both people try to be the same but rather that there is constant movement toward one another. A gravitational pull of love that can only result in generosity. An outpouring of grace upon grace upon grace. That both individuals compromise some of their desires in order to serve the other. That’s love. That is mutual respect.

I think it’s time to stock up on some Green Works.

Dating Jazz, Sweets

Date Night In + Recipe for Black Bean Brownies

We just finished a late dinner and hurried to get Willow off to bed.  Tooth brushing and story time minutes later, we only have  1 1/2 hours for our date night before we need to go to bed and we still need to do the dishes.  I run to the grocery store across the street to grab a pint of vanilla Haagen Das while Jazz (as usual) loads the dish washer and sweeps the floor.

It’s hard to justify squeezing in a “date” when you have so little time and energy, but when you have a child you kind of have to reimagine your whole life.  It doesn’t function the same way it used to.  You have to get creative and you have to be specific about how you spend your time.  If by the end of dishes all we have is 45 minutes, we’ll make due.

When Jazz and I did our pre-engagement counseling,  our counselor told us that you only need 15 minutes a day to have a successful relationship.  Now, by counseling I don’t mean a handful of sessions before the big day.  Before we were even engaged we spent a YEAR in counseling together.  I highly recommend it.  In our counseling sessions we learned how to communicate with one other.  We learned how to share our feelings in a way that was nonjudgemental, honest and open.  She recommended we practice this “checking in” with each other at least once a day.  So 45 minutes, that’s plenty of time to spend some meaningful, intentional time with your partner.

Dating Night In and Refined Sugar Free Black Bean Brownie Recipe // Keeping Willow

On top of our coffee table — a sanded and varnished palette on wheels that Jazz made — was Hive (one of our favorite two-player games),  two bowls cradling one of the warm, black bean brownies I baked that day (recipe below) topped with a small scoop of super, vanilla-y ice cream, and a lit candle (ok, I’ll admit, the candle made it look a little like a seance). Jazz picked out the music (Grimes | Halfaxa), we devoured our brownies, and we sat and played a couple rounds of Hive, each beating each other in opposing rounds.  To top off the night, we sat in silence reading our literature of choice as we wound down before bed (Jazz is reading Cryptonmicon by Neal Stephenson and I read the winter issue of i-D Magazine).

Our date was short and sweet (much like eating our chocolate, fudgey brownies) but it was something.  It was a moment to sit and laugh together, not worrying about life’s burdens.  We set aside a space where we decided to be WITH one another rather than just exist next to one each other (there’s a difference, I promise you).

This mini date was fun and left us excited for more.  Speaking of more, Jazz went back for a second brownie.  It’s ok, because they’re made with beans and sweetened with dates instead of sugar.  I know, I know, the ice cream kind of ruined that but it’s so much better with ice cream.

Here’s the recipe so you can see for yourself!


{Just a quick aside about these brownies.  We were having some friends over for dinner.  I wanted to make something healthier for dessert and I needed to make something without sugar since some of our friends gave up sugar for lent.  I took a little inspiration from Minimalist Baker’s black bean brownie recipe, but I used navy beans and made a few changes.  They turned out really well.  I have been playing with and tweaking this recipe to make it my own ever since and have finally landed on something that I think is really great.  The avocado makes it super rich without lots of added oil. Oh, and they are really easy to make.}

Dating Night In and Refined Sugar Free Black Bean Brownie Recipe // Keeping Willow


Black Bean Brownies- Gluten and Refined Sugar Free
makes 12 brownies

1 3/4 cups (1 can) beans (black, navy or cannellini beans will suffice)
2 eggs
1/2 ripe avocado
1 T coconut or pure olive oil
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup dates (soaked in hot water)
1/4 date water*
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
chocolate chips or chopped nuts optional

1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.  Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with hot water.  Allow the dates to sit for 5-10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
2. In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients beside the chocolate chips, etc.  Make sure to squeeze extra water out of the dates before adding to the bowl.  *Add a 1/4 cup of the remaining date water.  Allow to puree for several minutes, scrapping the sides of the bowl incrementally, to be sure the batter is very smooth and ingredients are well incorporated. The batter should be thicker than traditional brownie batter, kind of like frosting.  Meanwhile, with some butter or coconut oil, grease a standard size muffin pan.
3. Mix in 1/2 cup of any chocolate chips or nuts before pouring the batter into the muffin pan.  Fill the muffin pan to make 12, even brownies.  Top with extra chocolate chips or nut topping.
4. Bake brownies for about 15-17 minutes.  Much more than that and they will get a little dried out.  Take the brownies out of the muffin pan and allow to cool on a rack.  Serve warm with ice cream or a glass of milk.

Dating Jazz

Dating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood

It was 2007, early fall/late summer, and the evening was a quintessential summer night.  A gorgeous sunset, warm breeze and the sweet scent of dusk and soon-to-settle dew.  We didn’t know it was our first date because, you know, we were “just hanging out”.  My relationship with Jazz– my then date/now husband– has been very centralized around coffee experiences.  Four Friends was the “good” coffee shop in town at the time, and if you were anybody, that’s where you hung out.  We sat outside overlooking Rosa Parks Circle, a kind of park/community space/outdoor venue, smack dab in the center of downtown Grand Rapids.  Jazz was wearing the same dirty t-shirt he wore everyday, along with the same dirty pants he wore everyday, adorned by a newly sewn patch.  His mid-length, blond dreadlocks along with a faint waft of body odor was blowing in the wind (so dreamy).  We sat and talked for hours.  When we had finished, we stood up and he grabbed my hand.  Panic set in.  Not because I was repulsed by the romantic gesture but because I was so frickin’ excited.  I liked him.  Jazz was not like other guys.  (sorry if you feel the need to barf)

Fast forward to the present.  Eight years have passed. We’re married, live in another country and have, in my humble opinion, a pretty great 2-year-old daughter.  That coffee shop I told you about, Four Friends, it doesn’t exist anymore.  Much like our dating life at the present.  The sad, honest truth about having a young child, when you don’t have a serious network of friends and family to relieve you of your parenting duties from time to time, or can’t afford a sitter until after you pay off your student loans in 45 years, is that you spend a lot of time not on dates.

We were sitting on the couch, Jazz was reading some weird science fiction novel, I was reading “A Game of Thrones”, duh, and we hadn’t talked much all evening (p.s. aren’t we total dweebs?).  As a matter of fact, we had been rather short with each other for a couple days now.  And while I was trying to read my book, I was really thinking about how badly I just wanted to go get a slice of pizza alone with this guy across the couch and pick his brain for a couple hours (well, really anything that had a proportionate ratio of carbs to dairy).  So I put down my book and asked, “what if we start intentionally dating again?”  Knowing our current circumstances, Jazz looked a little confused. So I explained further.  My idea was this: What if we started thinking about dating as something other than just getting out of the house but more about creating a time and space that is focused on our enjoyment and interaction.  What if rather than letting our circumstances happen to us we adapted our dating life around our current circumstances? For instance, what if once a week we each take turns planning a date night in?  An activity, a game, a cocktail, a … number or endless possibilities.  We started talking about making some subtle changes that would allow the space for us to willfully enjoy each other’s company.

So we’re going to try.  And we want to share what worked, what didn’t, some really awesome meal ideas, cocktail recipes and fun stuff to do when you’re stuck at home on a Saturday night, in the hopes that it will be helpful to others who need a good “date night in” idea, or really just want to try a new twist on a Sazerac.

To kick off this little escapade, this past weekend my parents took Willow for 3 nights.  THREE WHOLE NIGHTS.  So we had like a serious date weekend.  We deserved it after having only one date in the past 6 months.  And in the spirit of what works and what doesn’t, weekends with the grandparents most definitely works.

We went to a crazy, hipster, indoor, music festival that we waited in below zero temperatures to attend.  We visited numerous coffee shops, a really awesome brewery, and an art exhibit.  We went out for drinks with friends and then slept in until the sun kissed our eye lids.  It was sheer bliss.

And yet, my favorite part of our weekend, even in light of all the fun things we did, was the same thing we did on our very first date at Four Friends, having a three hour, uninterrupted conversation about nothing particularly important in the car after we dropped off Willow with my parents.  It was refreshing.  I would have driven all that way simply for that.

There are a lot things I had to un-learn about parenting when I became a mother and one of them is that having children ruins your romantic life. Parenting didn’t kill Jazz’s and my romantic relationship.  Not at all, we are still very much in love, even more so in fact, and have all kinds of fun the majority of the time.  It’s just that our life has changed and so I guess dating has to change too.  I think the trouble a lot of people who are parents get into has to do with not changing, just expecting things to go on as they did before they were parents (that and the fact that all humans have issues and baggage and honestly need to spend some QT with a therapist on a regular basis, myself included).  But it just can’t.  Not at least until your little baby can drive and that’s way too long to wait.  I don’t know, maybe you can wait and see if it will all flop, but I’m hoping you’ll eat nachos and drink martinis with us instead.

Here’s a figurative toast to love and dating in the swell of parenting.  May you always remember, that once the baby is in bed, given a little imagination, the living room can be anywhere you want it to be.


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Dating Jazz


I married a man who is very different than me.  Although we both have shared affection for gourmet food, fine libations, and good music, there are many qualities that we don’t share.  For instance, I am very affectionate and can’t see why other people have a problem with most forms of PDA.  On the other hand, if Jazz is embracing me and someone comes even close to our vicinity,  he almost pushes me across the room.  I love a good party.  The more people, the better.  Jazz would rather hide alone in Plato’s cave with his fine library of books for all eternity.

Many of our differences we have been able to cope with just fine, but this weekend we face a big one: hot weather.  I love heat and Jazz despises it.  And we are traveling to Phoenix, where the highs right now are around 105°F.  While I am looking forward to a good dose of dry heat and sleeveless shirts, I am having a hard time convincing Jazz that this trip will be even a little fun in light of the temperature gage and the whole flying on an airplane with a 17-month-old thing.  The optimist and the pessimist, yet again, more opposites.  Although these preferences and passions may conflict with one another, I am becoming more and more convinced that these differences make us more whole and healthy people.  We give each other new perspective, break open each other’s boxes.  If only this concept worked for Congress.  

While Keeping Willow will be on vacation the next few days, I am sure that when we get back there will be many stories and perspectives to be told.  Hopefully no more children will end up in any other forms of water.