Thursday, December 29, 2011


We had a great Christmas weekend! Thanks family for being da bomb.

Christmas Eve we spent with my family.  We all went out on Pineview on the fresh ice.  Since it hasn't really snowed yet, the ice is see-through and only about 5 inches thick.  It was AWESOME.  It is so clear you can see down to the bottom near the shore.  It also cracks and makes the craziest noises that sounds like Star Wars battles.  Pretty freaky at times, but so FUN.

Then we did our annual Gingerbread (aka graham cracker) Houses.  This was mine this year:

I am extremely proud of that round roof. It took a lot of work:

Ben's was a "make-out" hut:

My mom's was a birdhouse, James' was an airplane, Raquel's was a pretty little Victorian house, Anna and Brian's was a cool barn, and Brooke's was a tree house! So creative!

Christmas morning we wanted to do our own thing as a family so we set up everything the night before from Santa.

She LOVES her new baby and stroller from Grandma Kendell.  She was so cute with it and knew it was hers.

She wouldn't sit still for fear that her gifts would disappear so this is the best we got:


She has changed so much in one year!!

It was fun to go to church and hear the beautiful choir and think about the Savior.  Then Ben's family came over to celebrate and I made homemade Cafe Rio. It was amazing!  We skyped with Jon and Jaclyn in D.C. and had a grand old time. We are definitely spoiled by all of our family. We love you all so much and are grateful for the time we get to spend together (we miss the Garrison side this year!)

Monday we went out on the ice again with ice skates.  We'd be out there every day if we could.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011


We're excited we're HOME for the Holidays this year! Is Christmas Eve really TOMORROW? Holy buckets.  So fun.  Here's a happy update on the last crazy month.

She's still a doll:

She and my cousin Henry had a sleepover and a couple baths together.

 Love this next one. Caption contest is a must.  It's one of two things:

"Daaang girl."
"Dude. I've seen better."

We also had a sleepover with the Phipps (while our husbands were in Mozambique, Africa getting a little business started):

Claire is queen of bumps with how wild she is.  And you don't even fully understand how wild she is.  This happened when she was running full speed across the couch, tripped on a pillow, and landed her face on the leg of my work desk. Cried a little, got right back up to do it again.

Ward Christmas party:

She was just a little weary until we left her there too long and started laughing, then she did a fake cry until it turned real.

We went a visited Ben's grandma Nan in the recovery center a couple of times. She's the light of the party for sure. 

"Bones, baby!"

We went with some friends to Christmas Village on 25th.  Freeeezing.

Johansen family Christmas party:

Christmas Village again with the Phipps (And Ben sporting his ugly $5 D.I. find 5 days in a row):

Went to a fun "Ugly Sweater Party" and I set up a little photo booth. 

And she is 17 months old today!!

Love her more every day.  She makes everyone who sees her smile.  She's always happy, always so sweet. Such a good baby.  We love our brown-haired, green-eyed little beauty.

Have a great Christmas weekend, everyone!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Forever Changed

Jared Alan Johansen, beloved son of Alan and Christy Johansen unexpectedly passed away in his sleep early Wednesday morning November 30, 2011 at his home in Pleasanton, California. He was 27 years old. Jared grew up in Pleasanton and loved his many friends and teachers at Walnut Grove Elementary, Harvest Park Middle School, and Amador Valley High School. Jared was well known for his fun sense of humor and wit and his love of learning. He was a great brother, husband, father, son, a gifted athlete, dedicated scholar and respected friend. Jared was an avid fan of the San Francisco 49ers, Giants and the Warriors. He spoke Spanish fluently and served a two year voluntary mission for his church in Washington D.C. Jared attended college at both BYU and the University of Utah, earning a degree in Economics in 2009. He was married in the Portland Oregon LDS temple in 2008 to his adoring wife Tiffany Bleak. During the past 2 years, Jared loved his work and associates at the law firm of Gunderson Dettmer in Redwood City. He and Tiffany were happily looking forward to law school next year. Jared is survived by his wife, his 17 month old daughter Reese and another baby daughter Jaclyn (due to arrive in January). Jared is also survived by his parents and his two younger brothers Nick and Nate Johansen.

When you have an experience like I did this week with the Johansen family, you need to write it down; when you feel the Spirit stronger than you ever have in your life; when your view about this trial is turned around completely; when your eyes are opened and your heart testified to; and when your perspective on life is changed.

I know that there are tragedies and deaths happening all over the world: the new VT shooting today, the missionary in Texas that was killed recently, and many other lost loved ones and heartbreaks.  I am hoping that me sharing some details about Jared's death and our experience as a family will touch you, change you, bring you to closer to Christ.

I had heard very little about the circumstances surrounding my cousin Jared’s death until Sunday. When I heard of his passing on Wednesday morning, I was a mess to say the least.  I have never cried so hard in my life.  I have never been in so much pain.  And a big part of the pain was knowing that his family and Tiffany were in unfathomable pain.  The communication was minimal and it led to lots of unanswered questions. I had no idea what happened to Jared, but “dying suddenly in his sleep” just didn't make sense to me.

Now I know. It was Jared’s time. Simple as that. And his family was being prepared for that day for years. God’s hand and His tender mercies were everywhere leading up to his death. God had a plan and because his family listened to the Spirit, it was able to play out miraculously. Jared exited this earth perfectly.

Jared and Tiffany were headed to Utah to see Tiff’s family for Thanksgiving the week before he died.  We were able to see them Friday and what a blessing that was. The Bleaks, their family friends, and the Johansens were doing a dinner at a cool barn in Heber City. They were also having someone come to teach us line dancing. It was such a fun night. The dinner was great. We sat by Jared and Tiffany and caught up with our lives. When the dancing started, Tiffany had someone video everyone dancing (video at the end of post). Then when it moved to “couple” dancing, I remember thinking, 'I should video Jared and Tiffany together.' So I did. When I was videotaping them dancing, I noticed 2 kisses between them; small and sweet but they stuck out to me and I remember thinking, “That is so cute of them. They are so happy.” After dancing with Tiffany for a while, Jared came and asked me to video him and Reese dancing. The love that emanated from his face while he danced with that little girl was tangible; and she adored him. She was laughing and giggling and was so happy. It was a tender mercy that Tiffany got into videography WHEN she did and as FAST as she did. The videos she did of Reese and her dad the last couple of months will be Reese’s for the rest of her life. It was a tender mercy that Ben and I could be there so that I could get the ONLY video of she and Jared together, and of he and Reese dancing. The first thing I told Ben when we left was, “Jared is so happy!”

From then on, Jared started feeling a little off. Tiffany said he would complain a couple of times about feeling nauseous. And that a few times, his paleness surprised her. He just looked and felt tired and sick. He was not well but Tiff said he was happier than ever so they kind of ignored it.  

They were able to see his Grandma and Grandpa Fronberg while they were there.  They have video of the Bleaks and the Johansens playing cards together; everyone laughing and so happy. They have video of Jared and Grandma & Grandpa Johansen, Blake and Deb.

Jared and Tiffany had the best last few weeks together they’d ever had in their entire marriage. Especially the last 3 days before he died. She said it was magical and indescribable. He was so much more attentive, so full of love and happiness, so involved with Reese and the new baby. They both couldn't explain it and didn't know why.  They shared some very special and tender moments where he was expressing his love for their little family and their life together.  They couldn't explain why their feelings were so powerful and overwhelming, but she knows now that their spirits were just saying goodbye.

On the flight back to California, Jared again wasn't feeling well and rested most of the flight. At home, he and Tiff were watching Reese play one day and he said out of the blue, “Reese. You. Are. SO. Beautiful.” He also told Tiffany how much fun he had had with Reese over the last few days.   Later Monday evening, Tiffany told him to go work out because he loved it and it always made him feel better. While he was gone she wanted to hurry and finish the wedding video she’d been working on because she loved showing them to Jared. He was always so impressed and proud of her videos. When he got back, he had only done some ab workouts and was completely pale and sweating like he’d played 2 hours of basketball. He came in her room and when she saw him she asked, “What’s wrong, Jared?” and he said, “I don’t know. I just need a hug, Tiff.” This completely shocked her because he was rarely like this. They went to bed and at about 3:30am Tiffany awoke suddenly with hot air blowing on her.  She was too hot, but tried to fight it for a while and go back to sleep. Finally, she got up and went out to the hall to the thermostat. On her way back, she saw Jared’s light on under his door (since she was so pregnant, they were sleeping in separate rooms at the time--also a blessing). She thought, “That’s weird. It doesn’t sound like he’s up and he never does that. Maybe I should go in and just turn it off for him.” So she did. When she went in, she immediately knew something was wrong with him and ran to him to wake him up. But he didn’t wake up.

This is definitely the shortened version of the whole story.  I can't go into all of the details here but it is amazing to me how everyone in his family had a special “goodbye” with Jared and didn’t know it at the time, including me.  I remember our last hug at the barn and will never forget it.  His father Alan’s last text to Jared was: “Love you and Tiff and Reese and Jac” and Jared wrote back: “I love you, too.” Christy said that when she was saying goodbye to Jared in Utah, she did the usual and grabbed his face in her hands to kiss him. He took her and said, “Mom, I love you SO much.” And they just held each other for a long time. Such a gift from God.

The next few days were a whirlwind; picking out caskets, planning the funeral, picking a grave plot. But Tiffany had a transformation. She and Christy both experienced a sacred, spiritual enlightenment that changed their hearts. Their eyes and hearts were opened and they knew that Jared had been called to a higher purpose and that his mission here was done. He was busy doing the work of the Lord. Tiffany knows that Jared is carrying her through all of this. He is very close to her right now, she can feel him. She can feel that he is happy and safe and free, but also that he is worried for her and sad that she is so sad. She feels his love for her and he is holding her hand and proud of her for all the work she is doing for him right now.

They picked out a grave plot for him on Sunday. All of the family went and 90% of them loved a spot that they had found. It was at the top of the cemetery, kind of alone, and it overlooked the whole San Francisco and Bay areas. It was beautiful. The family thought it was perfect. But Tiffany wasn’t feeling it. She didn’t feel like it was right, but she didn’t know what was and didn’t want to make everyone feel bad because she knew everyone loved it. She looked at another plot. It was simple. It didn’t have a view at all. It was just surround by grass at the bottom of the hill. She lay on the grass there as the family gathered and she began to speak. Her mom, dad, and Alan said that when she started speaking, Tiffany was transformed and eloquent and filled with the spirit and was a teacher. She said, “That other plot is beautiful. It is an amazing view. But it’s a view of the WORLD. San Francisco represents the world and everything wrong with it. The view reminds me of all Satan’s distractions in this life. You can’t see the view at all from this plot. It’s surround by grass and trees. It’s simple and peaceful, but it’s what Jared would want.”

Sunday afternoon, I went over to their house. I was desperate to see Tiffany.  She is my best friend and I wanted to help so bad. I wanted to take away her pain, do anything to help.   I also wanted to get my hands on the video I took of them at the barn so I could put it together for Tiffany. She had texted me earlier Sunday and said, “I have a big favor to ask of you” and I was just praying it was to do the video. And it was. She wanted me to put together and edit all of the video that she had taken over Thanksgiving break with Jared and the family in it. I was so happy to have been asked to do something. I felt so helpless until then. She wanted it played at the viewing on Monday night. I was up working on it for a few hours and towards the end of the night, Alan came in and we had a special moment together. He came in and was across the room and the bed was between us, he just started talking and saying how much he loved me and Ben and was so grateful we had moved to California and that it was another tender mercy of God. He said, “You have no idea how much Jared loved you two and what an example you were to him. And how you have been there for them and helped them is amazing.” Then he started to cry, so I got up and went to hug him. We held each other for a long time.

I don’t know what I expected when I went to the Johansen home on Sunday. But I did NOT expect to see what I found or felt. I have never in my life felt the Spirit more strongly than I did. The veil is very thin in that home. When I saw Tiffany yesterday, I was amazed. We cried and held each other for what felt like an eternity. Although the pain of her loss is written all over her entire body, she is glowing with the Spirit. The words that come out of her mouth are inspiring. She is a teacher. She is a leader. She is a comforter. She sat and told a group of friends and family her whole story and everyone in that room was crying, but the Spirit was touching all of us. Tiff is so grateful for everyone around the world and all of their support. She is aware of all that is going on for her and the family. She is being carried through this week. I am so proud of her and honored to call her family. She is the strongest person I know.

The viewing was hard.  And it was incredible at the same time. Tiffany wasn’t sure about going but decided to go last minute. I told her that I knew she would be glad that she went. The video I made was playing on a big screen to the side of Jared. His family lined up and people came for 3 and a half hours. Tiffany was having a hard time. But more than that, she was touched and amazed at how many people came for Jared. She said, “Look how many people loved Jared. Look how many lives he touched. I am so proud of him.” I told her that I was proud of her and that she is changing people’s lives.

(Tiffany's cousin from Oregon took most of the pictures)

Tuesday morning we had our family viewing and all were touched by the Spirit. Jared looked so peaceful and perfect. It was so hard to have them shut the casket and know that we will not see that body again on this earth. But I know we will see him again in the next life. Perfect and beautiful.  It was wonderful to have all of my aunts and uncles, my mom and dad, and Grandma there. We all felt so close to each other.

The funeral was beautiful.  Nick, Nate, Christy, Alan, and Tiffany did incredible jobs on their talks. We were all amazed.  They were composed and sustained during their talks. I am so glad I recorded it to listen to again and again. Jared’s mission president also came and spoke. And Elder Packer from the Quorum of the Seventy. The funeral was SO powerful.

Tiffany had everyone write notes to Jared to be buried with.  She also did this when her brother died 2 years ago.  When she started laying them out on Jared's bed, she was so filled with peace and joy.

Jared's ties:

I feel peace and certainty while watching this video that Reese will be taken care of. Her grandparents love her more than anything:

Until this week, I was deeply depressed, aching, so sad, and a little bit bitter about it all. I didn’t understand and was falling into the “why’s” of the trial. Why did this have to happen? Why did this have to happen to Tiffany? Why did this have to happen when it did, like it did, without an explanation? What is the point of this? Tiffany has already dealt with death and learned the lessons from that kind of hardship. It just didn’t make any sense. I had always heard the usual “It was meant to be” and "Everything happens for a reason" and “Trials are really blessings” and “It was his time.” But I didn’t understand it.  I didn’t have it testified to me.

This week, the Spirit spoke to me and changed my heart. It was Jared’s time to go. God has a plan for Jared. He has a plan! Jared fulfilled his mission on this earth and was needed somewhere else and so God took him.  It was to be this way from the beginning, we all just didn't know it.  When you look at this life as a blink of the eye in the eternities, it makes it okay! It makes it understandable and bearable! The difference was I was looking at this experience with my worldly eyes, but when I look at it with my spiritual eyes, I am filled with peace and understanding and knowledge. It is a 180 for me. Tiffany will always miss him. She’ll have hard days and months and years. It will be a rough road ahead of her. Especially with all the changes and the baby coming. But she will do it. She can do it. She and the girls will be just fine. I've never seen so much support in my life.  And she knows she will see him again.

This experience is hard for everyone. Hard for his friends and school mates and ward members.  Hard for the grandparents who have lost a beloved grandson, hard for aunts and uncles who have lost their nephew. Hard for cousins like me who have lost their cousin. Hard for Jane and Morgan who have lost their son-in-law. Hard for Alan and Christy who have lost their son. Hard for Nick and Nate who lost their brother. And for Tiffany for losing her husband and Reese for losing her daddy. But all of us have been touched by the Spirit and had our testimonies of this life and God’s plan and love for us strengthened. Our testimonies of Christ’s atonement have been refined. Our resolve to love those around us and be even more like Christ has been perfected. Even complete strangers have been touched. Experiences like this and trials this hard ARE blessings. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t easy. He won't make us run faster than we have strength.  The trick is to get closer to the Savior and hold ever harder to the rod.  We need to utilize the atonement of Christ to make it through. Christ knows exactly what it feels like to lose Jared and He will carry us all through.   I know I am forever changed because of Jared and my time with the Johansens this week.

Hug your kids. Kiss your spouse.  Hold on to each other and focus on the what matters most.
Learn more about what we believe HERE.  Or email me if you have any questions.

Spread the word about donating to a good cause this Holiday season:

Money will help fund an education for both Reese and Jaclyn (coming Jan 2012).

Here are some pictures of us/me with Jared that I want to remember.





2009 they came to visit us in Africa, the post is HERE:

Johannesburg Temple:

I was able to witness the birth of their baby Reese:

Ben and Jared, Reese and Claire:

Here is the video I put together for the family:
(The original is 30 minutes long, but I cut it down to about 6 minutes for online viewing)