My name is Jason Grodan and I married my beautiful wife Tammy in 2007. We live in Surrey British Columbia. About an hour away from Vancouver in this wonderful country called Canada, you may have heard of it. I was actually born in Manila Philippines in 1976 but moved to Canada in 1983 and initially lived in the Burnaby area with my family. I have one sibling, Rodger who is 5 years younger than me, also lives in Surrey with his son Nolan along with my mom Elizabeth. I also have a stepbrother and sister from my father’s previous marriage. My father passed away on May 26 of this year due to stage IV colorectal cancer. I will write about that experience another time. I grew up in the Lower Mainland and my family moved often when I was young. We lived in North Vancouver, Downton Vancouver, White Rock and now Surrey. I spent most of my childhood years in South Surrey/White Rock from Grades 7 and all throughout high school. I attended H.T. Thrift Elementary and then Semiahmoo Secondary Highschool. I was very academically focussed and received straight A’s throughout my school years. My favourite subjects were Math, Science and Computer Studies. However I did also enjoy cooking in Home Ec. and I occasionally cook at home for my family now, mostly breakfast but not even close to how amazing my wife cooks. I played minor hockey for several years up until Bantam level and then I decided to just focus on school after that. I always put a priority on fitness and often ran or went to the gym to lift weights. It wouldn’t be until 2002 that I would be introduced to rock climbing which became one of my passions.
I briefly attended the University of British Columbia majoring in Computer Engineering. I even received a scholarship as a result of my GPA from high school. However, it was short lived and I dropped out of school after 3 months. Without getting into too many details, a friend of mine from high school passed away from a swimming accident that summer of 1994 and this distracted and prevented me from focussing on school. However, it was also the time when I met and starting dating Tammy who I didn’t realize much later would be my future wife and mother of our 3 kids Josiah, Caleb and Ella. Tammy actually attended the same high school as me but she was 3 years younger than I so I didn’t see her while I was there.
Around 1995 I started a job working at Panagopolous (known as Panago now) as a delivery driver and eventually moved up to manager. I worked there for about 5 years and then decided to go back to College to study Accounting and Computer Science. A few years later I landed my first job in IT as a technical support engineer in Richmond at a company called Top Producer Systems that made software for real estate professionals. I was making a decent salary at the time so this was a huge jump from the $10/hour plus tips I was making at Panagopolous. I moved up to senior level engineer and eventually was able to get Tammy a job as an inside sales rep there. She was working for Ikea as a manager prior to that. This was a pretty significant move for her, and before you knew it she was making a 6 figure salary easily due to commissions! We made many friends at Top Producer and overall I was there for about 8 years, from 2000 to 2008.
I eventually became bored with the work and decided to work somewhere else. Some of the roles I took on included Website Production Support Coordinator at Yaaway Media, IT Helpdesk Specialist at Power to Change Ministries, Co-founder of Fixus of Computer Solutions, Desktop support technician ISM Canada, Resource Deployment Manager at ISM Canada, Service Desk technician at City of Surrey, Hospitality Manager at Christian Life Assembly, Training & Support Manager at Envisio, and currently Software Training Specialist Tasktop. So as you can see, I tried some other non-IT roles to see if I enjoyed it and found that I should really just stick to what I’m good at which is computers.
A little bit about Tammy. She was born in Tra On Vietnam in 1979. She has a younger sister and brother Tina and Steven and older sister Kim. She had an older sister Linda that passed away in the summer of ’94. That is the friend I was referring to earlier. She was in grade 12 at the time. Although I wasn’t close to her, this awful tragedy resulted in me meeting Tammy. They say God works in mysterious ways and I would say this is one of those ways. She moved to Edmonton Alberta with her family when she was 4 years old. She’s quick to tell me stories about how amazing Edmonton is, where they grew up in a small white house with a picket fence near the Edmonton mall where they checked out the famous indoor water slides. She also told me one time she met Glen Sather, one-time coach of the Edmonton Oilers at a gas station. Her favourite place to visit there as a child was Fort Edmonton which we later made a road trip of after we were married. I plan to take the kids there someday. She eventually moved to BC for her high school years and that’s when we met.
Like myself, Tammy is very athletic and very much into eating healthy and staying active. I introduced her to rock climbing later on, she is a natural. Her greatest gift is cooking amazing food. She didn’t cook much before we were married but boy did she learn and improve tremendously after that. She attributes most of what she has learned from her mom is who is also an amazing cook. Her homemade Pho soup is to die for! My favourite of Tammy’s dishes are her roast lamb, lasagna, butter chicken, handmade Italian style pizzas, pad Thai, homemade burgers, homemade sushi, etc. I can keep going on and on. I’ll have to create a separate page to share her recipes and share with everyone. Cooking runs in her family’s blood, every one of her siblings are also really good cooks.
Tammy has a great sense of humour and often makes fun of me, but in a loving way course, which I totally don’t mind. She’s also super handy. I’m talking about fixing everything in the house. She’s even built an extension to our backyard deck with the help of my father in law Mark. But you name it, there’s nothing she is afraid to tackle on except for computers and stereo equipment issues which I gladly take on with pride. I love anything to do with electronics and researching online but she hates it. Tammy has been my best friend since high school and has truly been a loving wife. Although we have our occasional bouts, our marriage couldn’t be stronger. We attribute this to our faith. We are both Christians now, wasn’t always though. That’s for another blog post. But it has been our faith that has gotten us through the trials of marriage and raising kids with autism. Without that foundation, I’m not sure if we would be where we are today. God has given us grace and tremendous favour in our lives and for that, we are eternally grateful.
Josiah was born in 2009 and Caleb in 2010. They are 13 months apart and often get mistaken for twins which is actually pretty cool when it happens I must admit. It’s kind of like having twins without having had to do the extra work of raising them. Although I must say that having them this close apart was extremely challenging especially when having to deal with their autism on top of it. They were both diagnosed with autism when they were around 4 years old. Josiah really didn’t start speaking until around 4/5 and Caleb is considered non-verbal at this point and has what is known as Apraxia of speech which is essentially a speech disorder that prevents him from speaking properly. Both boys have been taking intensive speech, behaviour, occupational and physiotherapy for the last 4 years and they have made some big improvements. They are also both homeschooled which is nice because it’s fully funded by the government and we don’t actually teach, we just manage administrative part. Josiah, we are realizing more and more is quite brilliant in many ways. He is able to pick up language very easily. His grandfather is teaching him how to read and speak Korean. He also loves taking things apart like his mother, so I think he will be very handy when he gets older. He loves puzzles and he can’t get enough of using computers so I don’t see him having any issues get into the computer technology industry if he wants to. Caleb has a few more challenges in that he is only able to communicate through gesture but quite recently is learning to say some words and using an iPad app called touch chat to communicate. Despite his challenges, I know that he is intelligent, although not always obvious due to the inability to speak. He has an impeccable memory like Josiah and he is able to direct you to exactly what he wants without words which is a real challenge in itself. Josiah is an extrovert like his mom whereas Caleb is an introvert like me. It’s a nice balance.
On April 6, 2018, Ella Amy Elizabeth Grodan was born! She has been a blessing and source of joy since day 1. All of our challenges with autism became secondary to raising a baby while managing 2 boys. By default I became responsible for feeding, washing the boys, brushing their teeth and putting them to bed. Tammy pretty much did everything that she did before, which was a lot and then on top of that looking after the baby. Ella is such an easy baby though in that she only really cries when she’s hungry or tired. She always smiles and stares at you and laughs at the slightest facial expressions. She has already started cooing and mimicking sounds we make like ‘Ma’, ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’. She’s quite amazing at this point and is super healthy. Tammy is breastfeeding her full-time and without any issues. She’s pretty much a pro at this point after breastfeeding two boys. Which is kind of nice for me because it means I don’t have to bottle-feed her. Although I did help Tammy the first month Ella has started sleeping through the night ever since. The way Ella is behaving right now is completely different than Josiah and Caleb in that she is communicating earlier and displaying really good eye to eye contact. Our hope is that she doesn’t have autism but if she does, we are fully prepared and know exactly what needs to be done for her to get the best support. However, something tells me Ella is going to be different. I can feel and see the difference. But then again it could be too early to tell. I will leave the outcome in God’s hands.
So far our autism journey has been good. Good in that we have seen progress in both boys and we have been able to successfully navigate the financial and organizational aspects of it. That’s not to say there haven’t been any rough times. There have been times of extreme sadness and times of overwhelming joy. But we have been able to balance work, marriage, and autism life to the point that we are actually very happy and content. We feel extremely blessed to have been dealt this hand in life. We would not have grown in character and in faith if it wasn’t for this journey. Our hope is that in sharing our knowledge and stories, we can raise awareness for autism and well as help and inspire other families that have children or friends with disabilities to speak out and be heard. It’s only together, we can make a difference in this world. Autism is here to stay and it will only become more prevalent in the years to come. We must find ways to increase acceptance and understanding as well as create opportunities for people with autism to be fully integrated into society so that they can go to school, have successful jobs, change the world, get married, raise a family and live a balanced and fruitful life.