TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Brain Injury’

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Courtney Clark

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Courtney Clark

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Courtney Clark Photo 2

Courtney Clark – survivor of Brain Injury & Motivational Speaker

 

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Courtney Clark

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Austin, Texas, USA

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

In the spring of 2011, at age 31, I discovered I had an AVM (arteriovenous malformation).

4. How did your brain injury occur?

An AVM is a congenital birth defect of the blood vessels. I actually had no symptoms and no warning signs, but I had been living with it for 31 years when doctors found it.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

My oncologist actually found my AVM at my 5-year cancer-free scans! Because I didn’t have any symptoms (usually symptoms are headaches and seizures), I had no idea that I had it. I also learned that three aneurysms were within the AVM. Any one could have ruptured at any time.brain-20clip-20art-brain4

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I flew to New York to be seen by one of the top neurosurgeons I could find. I had three brain surgeries.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

I wasn’t in a coma. I woke up from surgery the first day, but I struggled with consciousness for almost two weeks.

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?

I didn’t have to do rehab, but I did have to teach myself how to read again over the course of about a month because I really struggled with comprehension.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

visionThe main issues I struggled with right away were visual issues. I had a problem with depth perception, and, because of that, I couldn’t walk for several days – I could only walk a few steps at a time. For the next several months, I also had to work on reading and anything else that required visual comprehension.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

My life the first year was painful. I was running a small nonprofit out of my home, and I found that I could barely stay awake long enough to do any work. I felt completely helpless. (I couldn’t even take myself to the bathroom.) Now, I’d say my overall life is better – going through this with a supportive husband by my side has shown me I chose the right partner (the second time around). Also, I have even more perspective on life.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

Yoga! I am NOT a natural athlete like everyone in my family. But, in yoga, I had mastered the headstand. I could do not one but two cool headstands! I felt like a rock-star athlete for the first time in my life! When my neurosurgeon told me that I could no longer do Yoga th-1headstands (it sounds obvious now but caught me completely off guard at the time), it was the first time I really, truly wept. Like, I’ve been through so much, and now I can’t even do this ONE THING that brings me so much joy and makes me feel like a beast!

In a larger sense, I also miss that feeling of immortality that we all have when we’re young – when we think nothing bad could ever happen to us.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I’m so much more appreciative of my husband, my loved ones, and my life! Because of everything I’ve been through, I now get to research, write, and speak on resilience, and I love traveling the world to get to help other people.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

These days, nothing!

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

One of the main things that helped me was volunteering and giving back to other people. (It’s a strategy I ALWAYS use to help me when I’m struggling with something.) Research shows that volunteering is one of the best ways to get perspective on our struggles.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

My relationship with my husband, Jamie, has been affected – because I feel 100% certain that I’ve chosen the right life-partner. When I was diagnosed with cancer at 26, my then-husband wasn’t as supportive as I would have liked. The push in the direction to end my marriage was painful, but necessary. Jamie, my second husband, and I hadn’t even been married a year when the AVM was found. I was so worried that having to take care of me – take me to the bathroom, etc. – was going to hurt our new marriage. But, Jamie was, and continues to be, a most-supportive, caring partner.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

I feel very lucky – I didn’t have any long-term changes to my social life. Short-term, yes; but long term, not really. I will say that, after my surgeries, I have a “life is short” feeling – I don’t put up with a lot of BS or unkindness from friends.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

Image result for Free Cartoon Clip Art love life

My husband was my main caregiver. I don’t know if anyone can totally “get it” until he or she has been through it, but I always say that in some ways it’s almost harder to be the loved one than the patient. It was especially difficult for Jamie to deal with me because I had experienced the world of cancer also! Jamie didn’t always get to be the one to choose the treatment plan, but he had to just go along with whatever I chose. And, I got wheeled away, and I slept through the 10-hour surgery, but my husband was awake, pacing the floor the whole time!

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

Ten years from now, I want to continue traveling and speaking to groups to help them gain resilience and handle change and challenge.

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other survivors with your specific kind of brain injury.

My biggest helpful hint is that helping someone else is a tool that EVERYONE can use. So often, we think that, if we’re struggling, we have nothing to give. And, we may feel drained, exhausted, or like “Why do I need to help somebody else? I’m still getting help?” or “How could I even help someone, with my life the way that it is?” But, giving doesn’t have to be directed downward – to someone less fortunate. When I was sick the first time, I kept up with my volunteer activities, and I found that it gave me a sense of personal power and accomplishment, even when I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing much in my everyday life.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

My best advice is that healing and recovering from a brain injury isn’t a linear process. Before your brain injury, maybe you were like me: go-go-go, getting everything done, climbing the ladder, all about success. You can’t just “bounce back” after something like this. It’s a long, slow trudge, which our society doesn’t glamorize. But, the slow journey is really the only option, and that’s not all bad. It’s an opportunity to reprioritize and savor the smaller things (which I used to ignore).

 

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Courtney Clark – Survivor of Brain Injury – will be Keynote Speaker – BIAAZ Rays of Hope Conference – May 17, 2019, Phoenix, Arizona

 

Learn more about Courtney Clark on her website, Courtney Clark – Accelerated Resilience.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! …….. Alan Gregory

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Alan Gregory

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Alan Gregory 2

Alan Gregory – Brain Injury Survivor

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Alan Gregory

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Charlevoix, Michigan, USA     ajgregory@chartermi.net

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

January 5, 2016     I was 52 at the time.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I slipped on ice in our driveway while going to move my wife’s car. I had just gotten home from work on a Friday evening, and I went to get into her car. I stepped on a patch man slips and falls in waterof ice and flew up into the air, landed on my back, and then hit the back of my head on the concrete. I still remember that awful “Crunch” sound.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

I had suffered a concussion when I was hit in the head by a softball while coaching, so I knew the symptoms and the feeling. My wife is a Registered Nurse, so she knew I had to rest, and she kept checking on me all the time. After a trip to the Emergency Room, I expected the symptoms to go away in a few days or so. The ER doctor said I would be OK in a week at most. I returned to work on Wednesday (four days after the fall happened) because I had so much work to do in my job.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I went to the Emergency Room at the time of my fall. I was released with orders to just rest for a few days and stay in dark, quiet areas. That was my treatment … nothing else.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

No. I was only knocked out for a second or two.

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?

I did outpatient rehab at New Approaches Center. I had physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and cognitive therapy. I was at New Approaches as a patient for almost a year, with visits three times/week.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I have a balance problem, which is even worse when I “crash.” In the beginning, my crashes would happen randomly, and I would get severe dizziness, nausea, and confusion. Over time, these episodes started to spread apart, and now they hit when I am fatigued or overstimulated – usually 3-4 times/week at least. When I crash, my wife helps me into bed, and I usually nap two to three hours. Sometime, I wake up and feel good to go; sometimes, I am still very listless, and my brain feels like it is operating at about 20% at best.download_image

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

Ha! Does anyone every answer “No”? Yes – life has changed dramatically! There are lots of adjustments and lots of compromises, but we do what we can do. First of all, I lost my job after 30 years with the same company. What really ticks me off about that is that I worked at home (company laptop) for five months after my traumatic brain injury (TBI). I tried to return to work, but the lights and general office-noise just hit me hard, and twice they found me on the floor throwing up. After that, I was told not to come back until I had a “clean bill of health from a doctor.” Yeah, right! I would work as long as I could on the laptop (30-40 mins at first) and then go lie down in dark and quiet. I would then come back later and try some more work. I was able to keep things going and get my reports out on time. I even helped do the monthly closing for each month, and I got things done in a timely manner. Sometimes I would work until I threw up, rest for a while, and then come back for more. I did everything I could and was assured by Human Resources that my job was safe. I asked about coming back part-time (as my doctor recommended) or even about working with no bright lights or noise, but I was told the company did not do that! So, I hit the 6-month mark from the date of my last work day IN the office (not counting my work at home – since I was told that “no one asked me to do that”), and they put me on disability. I was told I had 6 months from that date and I would be released. I was improving, but at a relatively slow pace. I could come back and try full-time – something every doctor and therapist said was a bad idea. But, if I did that, I lost all disability claims for the future. So, they let me go and dropped my insurance, and that was it.

My life may have changed for the better. I think I am a much more patient and caring person NOW. I stop and think about how people might be feeling and how I can help in some way. I am not stressed-out like I was because of my job … but my family has struggled financially from my losing my job. Life is different. I struggle to move on totally, as I still have a lot of deep-seated issues with people who did not help me at my former employer and with “friends” (at least I thought they were) who have nothing to do with me after my TBI. That is probably the next biggest thing – how people treat me or avoid me. Why? What did I do? You think I like being this way? I wish I could go back to work.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

I miss my pre-TBI energy level … I felt like I could work hard for 9-10 hours in my job and then come home and help around the house. Now, I have to watch what I do and know that I may crash later.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I like having more time with my family. My get-so-caught-up-in making a living and doing my job meant that life just got away from us sometimes. It has been nice to get to spend more time with my wife and my boys – even though one is now in the Army. I feel like we have a better relationship.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I used to consider myself smart and very good at my job. I was an accountant, and I worked for years to get to where I was. I went to night-school for over ten years to finish up my Bachelor’s Degree, and I was three classes into my Master’s schedule. I had a 3.98 GPA when I fell.1440606034164831363did-you-know-auditors-are-usually-accountants-work-in--809089-hi

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

Reading books from people like Amy Zellmer and so many other wonderful people helped me to know that I was not alone. But, joining Facebook groups like Amy’s “TBI Tribe” really helped so much. I get to talk to people, and I always get their suggestions and ideas on things to do. Dr. Glenn Johnson and all the therapists at New Approaches helped me so much.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Of course. My TBI has changed the way my wife and I do things – simple things, like mowing the grass or shoveling snow. I have to watch what I do and be honest with myself on how I feel. I do think the TBI has made me open and easy to talk with.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Yes. We go out with a very small group of friends, and we had to prepare them in case I crash. They have all witnessed it now, and some are very helpful. Some also just kind of back-off. I am 6’2”, and my wife is only 5’2”, so she sometimes needs some help with me.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

thMy wife is my main caregiver. She is amazing, and I would be lost without her love and support. She is my rock. I know the things to do as a caregiver, but I also know how hard it can be.

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I take things more as one day, or maybe a few days, at a time now. I am much more flexible, and I do what I can each day. I hope I am still improving and helping others in ten years.

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other survivors with your specific kind of brain injury.

BE PATIENT, so give yourself time. Learning to live with a TBI takes a while … not days or weeks … but longer. Love each other.

Alan Gregory 3

Alan Gregory – Survivor of Brain Injury

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

My advice is to not take personally the actions of others, but it’s easier said than done. I still feel bad that people whom I called close friends treated me like I had the plague after my fall. But, they just don’t get it. WE do! So, look to people who really understand and get it.

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Caregivers SPEAK OUT! . . . . Malissa Mallett (caregiver for her son)

Caregivers SPEAK OUT!

Malissa Mallett (caregiver for her son)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

“Malissa Mallett will be my guest tomorrow (Sunday, February 17) on my radio show (Another Fork in the Road) on the Brain Injury Radio Network. She has been caregiver for her son, who had an anoxic brain injury, since 1997, when he was an infant. Malissa is Program Director for the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ). We will discuss caring for her son and the effect of her expertise (opioid use on the brain.) My show broadcasts live at 5:30 PT (blogtalkradio.com/braininjuryradio), or it can be heard as a podcast anytime (https://survivingtraumaticbraininjury.com/category/on-the-air-show-menu/).”

Malissa Mallett

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Malissa Mallett

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email? (optional)

Laveen, Arizona, USA     Program@biaaz.org

3. What is the brain-injury survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the brain injury? What caused your survivor’s brain injury?

The survivor is my son. He was 2 months old. His brain injury was caused by aspiration, causing him to stop breathing (anoxic brain injury).

4. On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?

My care began in April 1997. I was 22 years old. I was my son’s main caregiver then, but I’m not now.

th

Babies get brain injury too

5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?

No

6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s brain injury? If so, were you able to continue working?

I had just returned to work after giving birth. I was not able to continue working, since my son required 24-hour supervision for his heart and lung monitor.

7. Did you have any help? If so, what kind and for how long?

Occasionally. My family, who were trained in CPR, would care for my son to give me a break or a night out.

cartoon-hospital8. When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in the hospital; when the survivor returned home; etc.)?

In the hospital

9. Was your survivor in a coma? If so, what did you do during that time?

No

10. Did your survivor have rehab? If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)? How long was the rehab? Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?

No

11. What problems or disabilities of your brain-injury survivor required your care, if any?

This is difficult to answer given my son’s age at the time of his brain injury.

12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?

My life was challenging all throughout my son’s life.

13. What do you miss the most from pre-brain-injury life?

I will never know what could have been.

14. What do you enjoy most in post-brain-injury life?

Does not apply

15. What do you like least about brain injury?

shakilaramanwordpresscom

Learn about brain injury

The lack of understanding in the community

16. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s brain injury?

Yes. Education.

17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yes, it has. We can discuss this on your radio show. It’s too much to explain here.

18. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Not anymore

19. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I would love for my son to be successful and independent.

20. What advice would you offer other caregivers of brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

supportTake care of yourself.

Be surrounded by supportive people.

Educate yourself.

 

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . Kickoff Rule Change in Ivy League Football Reduces Concussions

Kickoff Rule Change in Ivy League Football Reduces Concussions

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

ivy-leageThe Ivy League colleges have done an experiment that dramatically reduced the number of concussions during a kickoff, considered to be the most dangerous play in American football. The results were reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The results were so dramatic that the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) changed kickoff rules for its college games in 2018 after considering the Ivy League data. It is likely to be considering adopting the Ivy League rule change for all NCAA college football.

The kickoff return is dangerous because both the offensive kick-off-clipart-18-1and the defensive teams often have the time and space to build up speed before a tackle is made. Kickoffs account for about 6% of the plays in a football season, but they are responsible for 21% of the concussions. The NFL (National Football league), which sanctions the most prominent professional football, considered doing away with the kickoff altogether. In 2016, the coaches of the Ivy League college teams agreed to an experiment that minimized the runback by moving up the kickoff line 5 yards from the 35-yard line to the 40-yard line. This change led to more touchbacks, where the ball is kicked into or beyond the end zone. As a result, there were fewer runbacks.tackling-clipart-9-2

Statistics showed that the number of concussions occurring during kickoffs was significantly reduced after the rule change in 2016. The number of concussions went from 10.9 per 1000 kickoff plays before the rule change to 2.0 concussions per 1000 kickoff plays after the rule went into effect. Meanwhile, there was little change in the number of concussions from non-kickoff plays after the rule went into effect.

While this is an important improvement, the question remains: Why is anyone allowed to play a game that results in so many concussions and hits to the head? (Full story)

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New NEWS: . . . . . . . . . . . . . Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale wins Award

New NEWS: Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale wins Award

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

BHBAwinner-sm

So proud to announce that my book, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, won the Beverly Hills Book Awards in the category of Caregiver.

You can click here to see all the other award winning books.

Beverly Hills Book Awards

 

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New NEWS: . . . . . . . . . . . . . Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale is Born/Published

New NEWS: Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale is Born/Published

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Prisoners

Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale was released on November 1st, 2018. It came into the world as expected and right on time.

Weight: 15 ounces

Size: 6″x9″

Get your copy NOW!

 

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Sneak Peeks for Prisoners

My book, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, will be released to the public on November 1, 2018 by WriteLife Publishing of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company.  Here are pre-order links for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Excerpt 7

Chapter 21

“Don’t Worry” Means “Worry”

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

woman_on_cell_phone_3… I always screened the messages, so I stopped before I closed the door and listened. My skin prickled as I heard a familiar voice. Dr. Bradofsky from Radburn was leaving a message. He said not to worry—everything was okay, which, of course, meant I would worry and that everything was not okay. Doctors rarely call with good news. I dashed up the stairs, snatched the phone from the cradle, and identified myself.

Dr. Bradofsky said that David had fallen out of bed and landed on his head! Though it man-s-head-bump-cartoon-stars-56250235didn’t appear to be serious, he expected a large goose egg on David’s right temple. He said he would observe him. He also had arranged for an ambulance to transport David to an imaging facility the following day for a CT scan to rule out additional trauma. I “calmly” accepted his news, told him I was on my way, and hung up.

About half way to the hospital, I lost it. I was terrified this “bump on the head” would cause more brain injury. I pounded the steering wheel and screamed, “Why? Why? How could this happen? Why!” as I wiped the nonstop flow of tears from my eyes. I could not get to the hospital fast enough Calm Womanand prayed that the expressway would be rid its usual overwhelming commuter traffic that morning. I underwent a minor breakdown. By the time I reached the hospital, I was composed and ready to handle the situation …

 

Please leave a comment/question. I will respond.

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Bienvenue. I’m thinking this is the spot where I am to write a witty, flowery personal section that pulls you in......I got nuthin’

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