Her words


It’s hard to believe it has been a little over a month since my mother passed away. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her and wonder what she may be doing if I were to pick up my phone and call her. See, right now the  most difficult thing for me is not being able to pick up the phone to speak with her. Although she lived hundreds of miles away in Colorado, it was very rare that a day passed when we didn’t speak to one another. Even if it was a short “hi and bye” conversation, I was still able to hear her sweet voice.

On the month anniversary of her death, I found myself at home and missing her like crazy. Normally I would grab my phone and call to chat before I went to bed, but it really hit me that I couldn’t do that. So instead, I pulled out this blue leather journal she wrote for me seven years ago.

See, seven years ago my mother turned 50 and I turned 25. We were both so excited about these milestone birthdays that we wanted to do something big. And what isn’t bigger than Las Vegas. My mother had been several times before and it would be my first visit out there. She was very keen on finding the best deals (right Fred?) and had everything planned before the date was even settled. We planned the trip to coincide with her most treasured musician, Sting, performing at Tiger Jam. It was perfect.

That trip has long since passed, but what I didn’t know at the time was that year my mother had started a journal for my brother and I to read long after she was gone. Some pages are poems she had written. Others are about her life with my dad when they met in California years ago. It contains a specific page dedicated to the story of my birth. For those of you who may not know, each year my mother would call both my brother and I on our birthday’s and share the story of when we came into this world. I looked forward to hearing this story each year and although I could recite it by heart, no one could tell it as enthusiastically and lovingly as my mother. We were her miracles. Literally her babies she was told she would never have.

Reading through this journal brought so many tears of joy and sadness to my heart, but so perfect for that moment. Even though my mom is gone, she knew the words to put down in this journal to continue to speak to us. I am extremely grateful for this journal and know that when I miss her, I can find some comfort in her written words.

The Most Difficult Day

Debbie Cisneros

On March 10, 2013, my beautiful mother passed away.

Debra Cisneros, 57, of Aurora, Co., formerly of Sioux City, Yankton and Albuquerque, passed away       unexpectedly in her home on March 10, 2013.

Debbie was born on February 27, 1956, in Pueblo, CO to Nora and Max Cisneros. After graduating from South High School in 1974, Debbie received her license in Cosmetology from the Iowa School of Beauty. Debbie took great pride in her exceptional sales abilities for hair salons and, most recently, farm and ranch advertising.

Debbie was a beautiful woman who lit up the room with her big smile and warm heart. She knew no enemies.

In addition to being a lover of music – especially Sting and The Moody Blues – Debbie enjoyed writing poetry, journaling, cooking, and she was an avid reader of both literature and Scripture. She enjoyed spending time with her family and friends, and loved to talk on the phone and share her stories with others.

Debbie is survived by her two children, Libby (Jake) Bouma and Fred Lennon; by John Lennon the father of her children; special friend and partner, Dan McCarthy; her parents Nora and Max Cisneros; and two brothers, Bob (Lucille) and Duane (Cindy) Cisneros. She also leaves behind numerous nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and countless friends. She was preceded in death by her brother Isaac.

Debbie left us after a very short life. Although we will miss her terribly, we want all of her family and friends to know she truly loved each and every one of them.

My mother’s unexpected passing has by far been the most difficult thing I have had to experience in my life. I am filled with so many questions, frustration, anger, and pure sadness. My heart aches.

This obituary does not serve my mother justice. She had the biggest heart of anyone I know. She always saw the good in people, even when it was difficult to see. She never thought twice about helping someone in need. She opened up her heart to others without question.

She was by far my biggest fan. My mother was always telling me how proud  she was of my accomplishments and for just being her daughter. And not just my biggest fan, but also my brother’s. There wasn’t a conversation that went by that she wasn’t telling us (and everyone else) how proud she was of what we were doing with our lives.

I wish I could have one more conversation with her to tell her how much I love her. I know I can have that conversation now that she is in Heaven, but it’s not the same. I want her to hear how proud of her I am for her dedication to her work, her loving heart, and for just being my mom. I want to give her one last hug where I don’t have to let go and can smell her perfume. I want to have one more phone call with her where she is telling me about a new meal she whipped up with her leftovers and whatever she had in her pantry. I want to receive one more voicemail hearing her voice  telling me to call her and that I can actually call her and she will pick up and I will talk to her about my day. I want to receive one more email where she is telling me about her day or what new outfit she got out at her favorite thrift shop. I want to receive one more card in the mail with her lipstick kiss lips sealing the envelope with a card inside just telling me hello. I want to receive one more comment about how much she loves this blog post as she almost always did after I wrote something on Joyful Girl. I just want one more of everything.

You never truly think about what you are doing and if that will be the last time you do it. I certainly didn’t.  And that breaks my heart into a million pieces.

Going back to my daily routine and life will no doubt be challenging and I question how I going to make it through those difficult moments when I reach for my phone only to realize that I cannot call her.  My head knows she is in Heaven and watching over me, but my heart has yet to, and probably never will, catch up to knowing this. My mother was a beautiful woman who I was so blessed to have known for 32 years. I know she will always be with me and that I will get to see and hug her again.

Finding Joy in Compassion


As Jake and I are moving into a new year and approaching the February 15th anniversary date of finding out he had lymphoma, I cannot help but go through different emotions about that time of year and what it meant for me personally, as his wife and as a caretaker to him. 

A friend of mine recently shared this devotion with me and told me that it reminded her of my blog, but that she had never thought about Joy in this way. And neither had I. 

Solidarity in Weakness

Joy is hidden in compassion. The word compassion literally means “to suffer with.” It seems quite unlikely that suffering with another person would bring joy. Yet being with a person in pain, offering simple presence to someone in despair, sharing with a friend times of confusion and uncertainty … such experiences can bring us deep joy. Not happiness, not excitement, not great satisfaction, but the quiet joy of being there for someone else and living in deep solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this human family. Often this is a solidarity in weakness, in brokenness, in woundedness, but it leads us to the center of joy, which is sharing our humanity with others.

Source: Henri Nouwen Society 

Words taken right out of my heart to express what I felt during the most roughest, soul-aching moments of Jake’s sickness and my time spent with him. 

I could not have expressed this any better. Thank you for sharing Beth. 

Live Like No One Else, So Later You can Live Like No One Else

When thinking about creating a long list of goals for 2013, I decided against it. While I love setting goals for myself, I realized that there are really only a couple of things I really want to accomplish this year.

  1. Continue excelling in my teaching program and being the best student I can be.
  2. Continue with our good health, eating better and exercising.
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For the past six months or so I have been addicted to listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcasts. I was first introduced to him five years ago when I picked up his Total Money Makeover book. I read it, but tossed it aside as I wasn’t ready to commit to anything Dave was talking about.

Over the summer I found Dave’s podcasts when I was looking for something new to listen to on my morning walks. I have been hooked ever since. I truly enjoy hearing his advice, guidance and those who come to Financial Peace Plaza  to shout out their Debt Free Screams! I was enthralled.

Since listening, I had begun mentioning his Baby Steps to Jake but couldn’t find that breaking point to truly break down and commit to the steps. Fortunately, the breaking point came in November when the motivation had built up so much that I just couldn’t move forward without it. I  knew there were going to be a lot of changes in our finances for the new year. I would be moving to part-time work so that I could remain more focused on school and not be spread so thin. As we were out shopping, I realized we were buying items that we truly didn’t need. It was then and there in the Sports Authority store in the shoe section that I proposed a deal to Jake. The deal was that we would enjoy the rest of our vacation, buying what we normally would have bought, but that come January 1st, we would begin Dave’s Baby Steps. We would truly commit to “Living life like no one else, so you can live life like no one else.”

Sitting on that bench, we did our own little pinky promise and the deal was done.  I was elated. But also nervous.

As soon as school was out, I began working on our budgeting and getting our credit card/debt information in order. While I like to think that Jake and I had our spending and working on paying off our debt under control, I knew I was lying to myself. While we were working on paying off our debts, we still enjoyed our Yankee Candles, our Friday night date nights and the occasional random and unnecessary purchases. Not to mention the no budget for groceries or eating out. It was time to get serious. So I sat down and revamped our budget spreadsheet. I signed up for Mint.com and truly looked out our finances and debt.

And I picked up Dave’s book again and dove in.


After several discussions, Jake and I agreed on the following for the upcoming year:

  1. We will continue with our monthly allowances and can spend that allowance on whatever we choose. (Jake and I have been doing this since we combined our finances after we got married and it has worked out well. Our allowance is spent on whatever we choose with no comment from the other person.)
  2. No more eating out meals unless we pay for it out of our allowance or it is a special occasion that we have saved/budgeted for.
  3. No more new clothing unless it is an absolute need.
  4. No more buying Yankee Candles. We will use up the ones we have and learn to live without unless we choose to pay for them out of our allowance.
  5. Any outside entertainment will have to come from our allowance.
  6. We will try to stick with a $50 a week grocery budget.
  7. We will continue to tithe to our church.
  8. Our monthly budget will be budgeted to zero. If we happen to have any “extra” income, it will go towards paying off our debt.

Dave’s plan isn’t innovative in any way. It is fairly simple actually. It is the behavior modification that will be the hardest part.

Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps.


Prior to today, we have already conquered Baby Step One:


Jake and I both discussed and agreed that we would feel more comfortable leaving more than the recommended $1,000 in our savings rather than liquidating all of our savings and applying it towards debt.

We are currently working with Baby Step Two:


The debt snowball is fairly simple. List all of your debt starting with the lowest amount owed, to your highest debt regardless of what the interest rates are. With paying the minimum amount on all of your other debts,  attack the smallest one with gazelle intensity.  Once that smallest debt is paid off, work towards your second highest debt and use the money you were paying on your first debt and simply add it to the next one. The effect is that your ability to add more money to paying off each debt will snowball (grow bigger) the more debts you are able to pay off. Sounds easy enough right? 🙂

Jake and I have a ways to go until we reach Baby Step Three and so on. Until then, we are putting all of our energy.  towards being debt free.

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As a disclosure, while I love listening to Dave Ramsey and getting the motivation to continue on becoming debt free, there are some things I disagree with. I do believe that some debt is okay. I will stilly rely on student loans to get me through grad school and we will still keep both of our cars. These baby steps include much more, but I have listed the basics and encourage anyone truly interested to start listening to Dave and to read his book.  I do have faith that even though we are not following his steps to a T, we are making the right choices to see the results.

Jake and I both realize and have dubbed this year as being “The Year of Suck”. We will have to get over that feeling of instant gratification that comes with going to eat, going to a movie or that buying something new brings us. We will have to get good at saying “no” to going out to eat with family and friends. We will have to learn to find entertainment in our own home with playing games, reading more and just being. We both realize that this is going to take a lot of hard work and gut wrenching decisions. But we also know that in the end it will be worth it all. While this will be difficult, it will all be worth it in the end.

So with that, I welcome 2013.


A Year in Review

It’s hard to believe that 2012 is coming to an end. This year certainly had its ups and downs and I can honestly say that learned a lot and grew even more than I ever thought I could this year.  I have updated my goals for this past year and while I didn’t get to all of them, I think I did a pretty good job. Here is a recap of them:

2012 Goals

  • Five monthly goals. At the beginning of each month, I will write a blog about that month’s goals. These goals may or may not come from my 2012 list of goals.  Well I started out well, but then ended this after the month of August. With school work, just decided it had to go.
  • Exercise six days a week. I currently work out six days a week with P90x and plan to continue that regimen into 2012. I have yet to decide if I will go for my 4th round of P90x, purchase P90x2 or find a different work out plan altogether. Success! With the exception of being sick and going to Punta Cana, I was able to achieve this goal!
  • Wake up by 6:30 each work day. This is going to be tough. This past month I was lucky if I made it out of bed before 7:15. I don’t want to feel rushed in the mornings and allow myself enough time to exercise, get ready and plan for the day. Haha, not a chance this happened.
  • Grow vegetables and herbs this summer. I unfortunately don’t have the space for a garden but am willing to brainstorm and get creative with using fun techniques such as using planters and gutters to create a little garden space. Success! 
  • Visit the Farmer’s Market at least three times. This past summer was pitiful with only making it once. Success!
  • Create a system/routine for getting laundry done. I love washing my laundry. It is the folding and putting away that seems to get me down. If anyone has any tips on this one, I am all ears! I tried, I really did.
  • Drink more water each day. Strive for two Nalgene bottles a day. I go through moments of drinking several bottles of water a day to not drinking any. I need more consistency. Fail.
  • Plan and eat healthier meals and stick to a grocery budget. Just like most of my goals on this list, I can be really good about this for short periods of time, but then fail other weeks. I want to get into a good routine of how to make this happen every week. Jake and I have a great start to this and really excited about it.
  • Clear out my closet of clothing I no longer or should no longer be wearing. I have gotten better about this in the past few months, but know I still have a way to go. I plan to turn all of my hangers in the opposite direction and whatever article of clothing remains facing that way at the end of next year gets the boot. Wish me luck! Success! It sure did feel good to get rid of clothes I knew I will never wear again. I was even able to pass them down to some younger girls I know.
  • Print off all of our wedding pictures and create a photo album.  This just needs to get done. Fail. Although my bestie made the most amazing scrapbook for Jake and I!
  • Spend less time on the internet on laptop and phone I am addicted to the internet. I am hopeful that this one will easily fall into place once school starts. Fail.
  • Organize my recipe binder. It is a mess and needs some serious help. Hopefully this will help.  Fail. But I did organize my online saved recipes with the help of Evernote and their new clipper.
  • Golf at least five times this year. I LOVE to golf, but I bet you didn’t know that because I didn’t go out once this year. Pitiful. I am ashamed to call myself a Lennon. (formerly). Huge major failure. Sad face.
  • Read a Stephen King book. 11/22/63 Success! And what a great book.
  • Go a weekend/week without TV. Success! I was able to accomplish this while on a nice little getaway to a friends cabin and while in Punta Cana. 
  • Go a weekend with the internet. Success! A whole week while in Punta Cana!
  • Make one new recipe a month and blog about it. Fail. 
  • Complete at least five crafts this year. With the world of Pinterest, this shouldn’t be difficult with coming up with ideas. Fail. I completed a couple, but not as many as I would have liked to.
  • Dust off my sewing machine and sew at least three new items. Fail.
  • Learn how to crochet a flower hat. I did it! With only a few days to spare. Maybe pictures soon! 
  • Go a month without going to Starbucks. Success! I have actually gone over two months without Starbucks and very happy about this. 
  • Give up Facebook for a week. Fail.

Couples Goals

  • Try a new restaurant each month. I am SUPER excited for this goal. Jake and I usually have one date night a week but find ourselves eating at the same restaurants. We plan to switch it up by hitting new restaurants that Des Moines has to offer. Suggestions welcome! Fail.
  • Host a game night. While we did not officially host a game night, we did have a chance to have friends and family over at times and play games.
  • Have at least three dinner parties. Fail.
  • Take Jake out on the golf course. We’ve been to the driving range together, it’s now time to get him out on an actual course. Fail.
  • Revise current budget and pay off credit cards. Jake and I have been working diligently on paying off our debt. Later this month (January), we plan to sit down and go over our current budget and make any necessary revisions to achieve our end goals. Not this year, but we have some big plans ahead that I cannot wait to share!
  • Plan a trip to Denver. Last year I was fortunate enough to visit Denver twice. Both of those times it was in the winter months, which didn’t allow me an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful summer weather and water activities such as white water rafting. I am hopeful Jake and I will make it out there this summer to enjoy super fun activities and visit our friends and family. Success! Jake and I were able to spend Thanksgiving with my mom and brother this year in the Mile High City.
  • Plan a trip to Philadelphia I have had the fortune of visiting the East Coast five out of the past six years that my brother Fred has lived there. Philadelphia is an amazing city with so much history and culture to offer. I cannot wait to show Jake this gorgeous city and of course visit my brother. Fail.
  • Vacation in a place I have never been. Not sure where this will be, but I am open to anything! Punta Cana baby!

Some highlights of the year:



Started off the year right with my first two classes at Drake.



While Jake and I would normally have celebrated our birthday’s this month, we were given the news of his cancer.


Nathan Matta and Jake started a Kickstarter project and began working on this documentary.



In the midst of it all, Jake and I were able to get away for a couple of days. It was glorious.



Celebrating one year of marriage.


Best news ever.



NHS mini road trip to St. Paul!



Having these beautiful ladies come to visit and celebrate their 9th birthday with us was wonderful!



Ending the summer with spending the day in Decorah, IA with good friends from out-of-town is a blessing.



Six nights, seven days of pure bliss and relaxation with gorgeous scenery was just what we needed.


Family photo-edit

Jake and I took a nice little road trip to Colorado to visit my mom and brother. It was wonderful being able to see my grandparents and spend some down time.



Ending this semester of classes and celebrating the Advent season with Coming Home services at Faith was exactly what my heart needed.

This year I was blessed with so many wonderful life experiences that brought out the best and worst in me. In those good and bad moments, I learned more about myself, my weaknesses and the strengths I carry.

These are what I hope to carry with me in to the new year.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving always bring people to reflect back on what they are thankful for in this life.  A few of my friends have been posting their “30 days of thanks” on social media websites, naming one thing each day that they are thankful for. I find joy in reading what others are thankful for as there is so many different things in this world. As I myself reflect on the things I am thankful for, this holiday season, I thought I would share some of them with you.

In no particular order.

Except maybe this one. 🙂  Jake’s cancer free diagnosis earlier this June. 

My mother who is always there no matter what day or time. For her big heart that she shares with everyone.

My employer for allowing me to work, take care of Jake when I needed to and go back to grad school.

For my brother who is always listening to whatever I have to say.

To all of my friends far and near. I could not have gotten through this year without you all.

For the ability to travel to new and far away places to relax, celebrate and rejoice in all that is good.

For all the books I was able to enjoy this year that transported me to another place.

For God’s infinite wisdom and love.

My professors at Drake who continuously push me to think creatively, and learn the best of the best so that I can be a better person and teacher.

My Joyful Girl readers for wanting to be a part of my life.

My father for always giving me sound/no-nonsense advice when I need it the most.

All of the blogs I read so that I can experience things through them.

My two little boys. For Klaus who likes to wake me up every single morning to let know that it is time to drink from the faucet. For Dietrich who got me to know it is okay to live with cats again although I am allergic and his ability to make me love cats again.

All those dedicated to reasearching cancer helping find drugs to eradicate the illness.

The Internet for allowing me to keep connected with those in my past and those in my present.

For the roof over my head, the food I can put on the table and clothes I can put on my back.

For Faith Lutheran Church’s open and giving community.

For every single nap I was able to take and knowing it was okay.

My mini-meltdowns that make me feel better but also really put things into perspective.

The ability to spend time with little kids so that I can remember that life doesn’t always have to be so serious.

For my husband who can make me smile with one word, laugh with his stories,  weep with his beautiful singing voice, and making every day worth it all.

My healthy body that allows me to exercise and enjoy life to the fullest.

For the ladies I have been able to share my story with hoping they can find some peace in the craziness of it all.

To the mistakes I have made and the lessons that came from them.

For all of Jake’s doctors, nurses and staff to helping him be as comfortable as possible during his chemo treatments.

For the variety of music creative minds put together.

For everyone near and far that supported Jake and I through this year.

I am sure there are more to mention, but these are a few.

I pray that this holiday season everyone has a chance to take a few minutes to really reflect back on what they have and give thanks.


I wasn’t sure where to start this blog post knowing that it has been almost two months since I posted last. I feel like there have been so many things that have happened, but on the flip side, I just keep living my life one day at a time and so it doesn’t seem like that many things have happened.

When I was younger, my dad would always  tell me that when I was older, time would just fly by. I would look at him like he was crazy and thought that there was no way where there would be a time where things moved so fast. Boy was I wrong.

School has been going extremely well and I am still enjoying every single minute. I completed my 40 practicum hours and happy to know that I can go beyond those 40 hours. I was gone for two weeks from the classroom, and I cannot express the delight and joy I felt when I walked back into the classroom and what seemed like the whole class started yelling, “Mrs. Bouma”, “Mrs. Bouma’s here” and came running up to give me a hug. It made my week. I have learned some invaluable lessons, gained a lot of hands-on experiences, and good, practical teaching skills in my time in the classroom. While working with the kindergarteners has been a joy, I am excited to be placed in some first and maybe second grade classrooms to get a feel for the age differences.

At the beginning of October, Jake and I were so blessed to participate in this year’s Light the Night walk. It was a chilly night, but wonderful. I was blown away by all of the people who  come out to support friends and loved ones who are fighting the good fight.

Probably the most exciting thing that has happened since I last posted was the fact that Jake and I were finally able to celebrate his survivor status by heading down to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It was AMAZING. We stayed at the Barcelo Bavaro Beach Palace Deluxe and could not have asked for a more accommodating  beautiful, clean and overall wonderful resort. The resort was not only beautiful, but huge and we were able to travel between our resort and the adults only resort.

Jake and I spent six nights, seven days in this wonderland beauty of a beach. I made the decision prior to our trip to go sans internet service and just enjoy the simple life. It was one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. Jake took a ton of photos on our camera, but these are the ones we captured with his iPhone.

The gorgeous beachfront.

Early one morning I took a walk and enjoyed the quite and peacefulness of the beach.

Just the obligatory couples photo. 🙂

On the Sunday morning that we were there, Jake and I went on a dune buggy excursion.

It was a blast! We got to enjoy the countryside and go over to the Caribbean Sea. The view was spectacular. Blue skies and crystal clear water.

After visiting the Caribbean Sea, there were a couple of downpours that made the dirt roads complete mud paths and our drive so much fun!

We were able to stop by a little hut in the country and learned about cocoa and coffee beans as well as cigar rolling. The scenery was breathtaking. I love all the luscious greenery and palm trees.

I would, without a doubt, take this trip again in a heartbeat. Jake and I had truly enjoyed our time together, learning about the Dominican culture, catching up on some reading and not having to worry about a single thing other than where we going to perch all day.

Not going to lie, I love us!

Now that vacation is behind us, Jake and I have been back at it with work, school, some more school and enjoying the fall weather in Iowa. Unfortunately, Jake currently has me addicted to Prison Break. Have you seen this show? I am telling you, it is awesome. Not only is Wentworth Miller gorgeous, but the plot is crazy-intense.

Jake and I are looking forward to a mini trip we have planned to Colorado over Thanksgiving to visit my mom and friends! My brother Fred is also going to be there, which is an added bonus!

Well, its time to get back to my prison break before I try to hit up an early bedtime. It was really nice taking a night off of homework and catching up! Cheers to a productive week!