Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our Surrogacy Journey

In the summer of 1985, a young lady gave birth to a beautiful, brown-eyed girl. She loved this precious baby girl so much that she knew the best thing for this innocent little miracle was to give her to another family to raise. She courageously gave that baby life and then selflessly gave a couple from Grove City, Ohio the gift of a baby girl. This couple knew the struggle of infertility, because they lived it. For years, they tried to have a baby and could not. Their journey led them to adopt a strong baby boy in 1982 and then this sweet little girl in 1985. After years of trying to have a baby, they now proudly had two beautiful children to call their own. Their family was complete.

Twenty-eight years later, that brown-eyed baby named Gina, now a married woman, would quickly become the mother of three baby boys. She would hear of friends and family who struggled to get pregnant and wonder how she was so lucky to have been given the amazing gift of babies so easily. She would often think of these friends, family, and the millions of other women who deal with infertility on a daily basis and feel helpless, knowing there was nothing she could do to make their pain any easier.

However, one night over a casual conversation with some co-workers, the topic turned to that of surrogacy. This brief conversation sparked an interest in Gina's heart to see if this was something she could actually do for somebody. She was young, in good health, and had three successful pregnancies with zero complications. In fact, being pregnant was something she truly enjoyed. She assumed she would be the perfect surrogacy candidate. She was given the gift of life as a baby by her biological and adoptive parents. She had been given the gift of life from God in three perfect baby boys. Now, Gina set her gaze on nothing less than returning this special gift to another couple.

The Day That Changed Everything
For a brief moment, the entire world went into slow motion, and all that was running through my head was this phrase: "All of these people want babies. All of these people want babies. All of these people want babies."

It was a beautiful, bright, and sunny Chicago spring morning that first time we energetically walked into the fertility clinic located in a neighborhood just north of the city. The waiting room had an energy that I had never before felt in my 29 years of existence. With all of the energy and activity that was occurring around the waiting room, the entire building seemed to be spinning. One patient after another filed in and was quickly escorted by one of the nurses to an assigned examination room.

As we waited, I remember asking our agency coordinator from Alternative Reproductive Resources, "Is it always this busy?" She simply answered, "Yes." Her answer was quick - one word to be exact - but that one word confirmed in my mind and heart that the journey of surrogacy my wife had chosen, and one that I was determined to join her on, was exactly the path we needed to take.

I remember thinking, "Is there something about this time of year that makes the center so busy? Is there some kind of IVF sale going on? Surely this many people cannot be struggling with infertility! Surely there must be an explanation to all of this!”

“Yes, the fertility clinic is always this busy”, she replied, confirming the reality deep within my soul. It was a simple answer, but the depth of that one word could not have been more complex. The fact remained that this room was over-crowded, and the implications of that reality were about to change our lives forever.

The Facts

After our coordinator stated that the fertility center was in fact always busy, we sat down and she informed us of a couple of facts:

  • The inability to have a child affects 6.7 million women in the U.S. (approximately 11% of the reproductive-age population) (Source: National Survey of Family Growth, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] 2006-2010).
  • One in eight couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy (Source: National Survey of Family Growth, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] 2006-2010).

Before that spring day in Chicago, these facts would have gone in one ear and out the other - not because I do not care about people who do not have the ability to become pregnant - it’s just that oftentimes we do not tend to give something much thought until it directly affects us. That day as we sat in the waiting room, I looked around at all of the people who wanted to have babies, and those facts could not have moved me more.

I saw men and women from all walks of life in that room. Looking around, I saw Caucasian and African-American people; I continued to look and saw people of Asian and Middle-Eastern descent. I saw young couples and older couples. I saw desperation and determination. I saw hope and courage. I saw faith. I saw joy and anticipation. By being in that room, I saw couples declaring an expression of love that swore to move mountains in order to reach the child that would one day be born to them.

The statistics our coordinator outlined as we waited in that crowded room were no longer just numbers. These statistics had faces. These faces had stories. No, these were not just statistics: these were people. These were people on a journey. Some may call it a mission to go through years upon years of struggle, some more than a decade, to reach that moment they first hold their baby. Some may get to reach that moment and others may not, but all of them believe the struggle is worth the sacrifice. Sitting in that room, Gina and I began to believe with them and were about to join them on their collective journey.

I wish I was exaggerating when I say that the room was packed from wall to wall, but I am not. What this room symbolized was a reality that I was not able to grasp at that moment. I will do my best to explain why this day in Chicago was life changing.

Our One-Hit Wonders

My wife, Gina, and I grew up together. Our parents attended the same church and we saw each other whenever the church doors were open. Around middle school we became “interested” in each other, and one fall evening after a church service I gave Gina a note (via my best-friend-delivery-service) asking if she would be mine. It was the “check yes or no” type of letter. Very romantic. It must have worked because the next time I saw her, she said yes.

As a couple, we survived the high school and college years and were married over Christmas break of our senior year at Cedarville University. After graduating, we moved back to Columbus, Ohio and started married life and our careers.

After an exciting second year of marriage, we decided that it was a logical time to start trying to have a baby. After a few calculations, we discovered the best day to “go for it.” The day that our very scientific calculations predicted to be the most likely to get pregnant happened to fall on Thanksgiving Day. We were living in Pennsylvania at the time, and that holiday weekend we just so happened to be home staying at my parents house. Very romantic. My brother generously gave us his bedroom for the weekend. Sorry, Craig, but on Thanksgiving Day in 2008, we went for it.

A couple weeks went by, and I even forgot about our efforts. But after Gina missed her monthly cycle, a home pregnancy test amazed us when we discovered that Gina was pregnant on the first try. I remember thinking and saying to Gina, “Wow, that was easy!”

In fact, it seemed so easy that after two years, we were excited to try again for Baby #2. Just like before, a few calculations were made and a couple days later Gina was pregnant again. At the time, we did not know that the exact moment had been successful, but after several weeks, another home pregnancy test would confirm once again that we had achieved another “one-hit wonder.”

Less than a year after Baby #2 arrived, Gina and I had an enjoyable date night planned. We sent both of our sons to their grandparents’ house and set out for an relaxing kid-free night! I do not remember where we went to dinner or what entertainment we chose for our evening out. I will skip a few obvious details, but all I remember is the night ending with Gina exclaiming, “Oh no, I know I am pregnant now! I just know I am pregnant.”

“Gina, I am sure you are not pregnant. We were not even trying!” I stated confidently-ish, desperately trying to console my beautiful bride who was now frantically lost in a rare moment of uncertainty. She always has a plan, and now, “We were not planning on trying for another child until Deacon stops nursing!” She must have reminded me of that 13 more times before we turned out the lights and put fate in God's hands.

Not to my surprise, several weeks went by, and once again a home pregnancy test confirmed that in eight months, our third one-hit wonder would be joining our rapidly-growing family.

After hearing our story, it is easy to see why I was in such shock on that spring morning in Chicago to be informed so emphatically of the reality of how hard it really is to achieve pregnancy. Having babies was clearly not something with which we were ever going to struggle. We wanted a baby, we tried, and we were successful three times in a row. Technically, one time, according to me, we were not even trying.

Please do not hear me wrong. We did not and do not take the fact that we had three healthy babies so quickly for granted. When I say it was easy, we recognize that it was nothing within our ability that was making it “easy.” It was not easy because anything about us made it easy. Those were just the cards we were handed. We recognize that every time a baby is conceived, it is a miracle. We recognize that every time a baby is delivered, it is a miracle. We are in complete awe of the three miracles that God has given us.

However, even though we know these babies are miracles, I do not think that until Chicago did we fully realize how lucky we truly are. The struggle of infertility is so real and deep for so many people that the thought of our experience just simply seems effortless and too good to be true.

The Talk

One night after work, Gina came home and asked me what my thoughts were about her carrying somebody else's child. My response was brief, because I thought if she wanted to do this, it was something she had to commit to first. I would fully support her, but I knew this was ultimately her decision to make.

Looking back, I was shocked at the topic of discussion, but in that moment I was instantly so proud of her and thrilled that she was considering this. Her three complication-free pregnancies and deliveries were no guarantee that it would happen again. She was literally considering putting her body on the line for someone else's benefit.

Our faithJesus Christ, who just so happens to be the product of the most miraculous birth in the history of the world, taught, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Often, people view the Bible as a list of rules that God has set in place to keep people from enjoying life. The truth is that the Bible is a story about how the world is broken. There is a lot of evil, pain, and suffering, even in trying to have babies. Consequently, the Bible is a story about how God sent his son into a broken world to heal it and create a way for people to experience life to the fullest. The climax of the story and the entire message depends on the truth that only way the brokenness of the world can be fixed was for Jesus to die. In the realest sense, He gave his life so that we could experience life ourselves. That is love.

My wife, in accordance with our faith, was contemplating demonstrating the message of this bigger story in a very tangible way. She was choosing to lay her body down in order to let a couple, one that she did not even know, experience a life they did not think was possible. How could I not support her wish?!

“Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match…”

Our faith convictions about the sanctity of life put matching us with intended parents on hold.  Unfortunately, it was not easy to find a couple with like beliefs. We were adamant about our stance against selective reduction and terminating a pregnancy at any point of the process even based on testing that may show signs of physical or mental disabilities. We believe all life has tremendous value, and we set out to find a couple with similar convictions.

Six Long Months Later...

We were finally placed with a pair of intended parents! This brought us back to Chicago, and it was time to make the transfer of embryos. We walked into the doctor’s office at 8 am, and by 8:15 we were walking back out to the car. We made a quick stop at Molly's Cupcakes and Intelligentsia's Broadway Coffeebar, and then headed out on our drive back to Columbus. I remember looking over at Gina in the passenger seat and saying like I had with our first born, "Well that was easy."

Our previous pregnancies were (for the most part) stress-free: We never really worried about whether or not a pregnancy would occur. This time was different. The next several weeks were agonizing. We were experiencing what it was like to walk in someone else's shoes. For many women and men, this experience of playing the waiting game is very much the norm. The possibility that nothing would happen and the prospect of having to try again next month and again the following month over and over was their reality. Waiting alongside the intended parents, we were now beginning to experiencing this anxiety.

I was merely a spectator in the front row of this incredible story, but I was absolutely consumed with anticipation and hope. The realness of the struggle is something I will never forget. The agony of waiting was almost too much for me. I was not the parent or even the one carrying the child, and yet I wanted so desperately for this pregnancy to occur and for the baby to be healthy.

Finally, the day arrived to be tested. I had used my earned vacation to go on our trips to Chicago, so it was not possible for me to go to the doctor. It was the longest morning ever. If Gina and I were this anxious, I can not even imagine how anxious and excited the intended parents must have felt. Then to receive the news, it was one of the happiest text messages I have ever received from Gina.

“They are going to have a baby!”

I could feel the joy and hear the laughter and celebration as the intended parents would in a matter of moments receive the incredible news. Another one-hit wonder was on its way!

Alternative Reproductive Resources

Saturday, July 27, 2013


In my life, up to this point, the things that have meant the most to me almost always revolve around other people. Life is simply better when other people are around. 

Having somebody to throw a baseball with as a young boy. 
Having a sweet brown eyed girl to listen to on the other end of the phone line. Having a family to squeeze around a small kitchen table. 
It really does not get much better than that.

I am not sure who instilled this philosophy into me, but the importance of choosing good friends because you become like your friends was something I can remember hearing often as a child. In many ways this is true. 

You will not always support the same sports team, 
delight in the same books or enjoy the same foods 
but you will develop a desire to love and help them 
and the things they are most passionate about.

Maxton, Deacon, and Rohan, this is why it is important to choose your friends wisely. If you choose friends that seek status, pleasure, comfort and a carefree life those will be the things you seek. There is nothing wrong with seeking to improve yourself. I am not saying do not seek to become a better employee, boss, husband, father, or citizen.Work hard at those things; be excellent at all that you do.

What I want you to think about is why.
Why do you want to succeed?
Do you want to succeed so that you can have a comfortable life?
Do you want to succeed so that you have a nice family?
Do you want to succeed so that you are respected?
Do you want to succeed so that you feel like your life has meaning?

You may have wondered why I started out talking about friendship and it would seem like I just switched to a different subject. 

What I want you to see is that your desires 
for personal growth, success, and meaning 
are not wrong 
but should be intricately connected
 to friendship and community.  

When people use their time, talents and treasures to better all others in their community then life can become beautiful.

A part of doing community life well is give, for sure, but it is also being able to receive from that community as well.

“A person is a person through other persons. None of us comes into the world fully formed. We would not know how to think, or walk, or speak, or behave as human beings unless we learned it from other human beings. We need other human beings in order to be human. I am because other people are. A person is entitled to a stable community life, and the first of these communities is the family.” -Desmond Tutu

Notice, Desmond says that we "need others" in order to be human. You need to receive from people. 

help, care, love, laughter, joy, support, 
gifts, healing, conversation, smiles, 
food, a place to rest, acceptance....

When you receive you show that you are in need, that you are not just some kind of god that needs nothin-from-nobody. 

When you receive you are enriched and in return you can enrich others lives around you. Ubuntu is cyclical. When somebody is helped they in return desire to help.

Give, yes! Give generously of your heart, soul, mind and being to those in your community. Lavish others with goodness. Seek to become the best you can so that you can give the best away. But also, find friends that do the same and stay close, receive from them. Don't let them go. If circumstances take them away, stay close in whatever way you can. You will become like the people you love the most and if your closest friends are seeking Ubuntu, you will too.

UBUNTU : Respectful, helpfulness, sharing, community, caring, trust, unselfishness


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


  • There is no greater snack for boys than Cheetos. 
Seriously, if you are going to do the sensational summer snack do it right. Go in head first and eat the whole bag.

Ok that might be over the top but there are a couple helpful hints.

Eat'em outside (no shirt works well too)

Share'em with a bro

Seriously, he will love you forever if you share'em with your brother.

The age old question? Napkin or lick'em? OK, that's not really a question...lick'em everytime :)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"I can do that"

When I was a young boy I used to love art. I still enjoy it but it definitely is not a high on my priorities during this season of my life. 

As a child I would absolutely love watching the incredible American painter and TV host Bob Ross make happy little scenes, with happy little trees by happy little rivers. It was a happy time and every tree had a little friend. "Everyone needs a friend" you know.

I remember, very vividly watching (probably completely obvlivious to the world around me) Ross swirl around paint on his palette and gently lift just the right amount of paint off with a brush. He would slowly make simply stroke that seemed to fall effortlessly onto the canvas. He made it so simple and as I watch I remember even more vividly this thought going through my mind...

"I can do that"

The best part of this thought, in that moment, is that I actually believed it!

I literally believed, without a hint of doubt, that I could match the patient skill, stroke for stroke, of Bob Ross by simply watching a couple of episodes of The Joy of Painting.

20 years later.....

Maxton, my 3.5 year old, absolutely loves gymnastics and he does not even know what that word means yet. He loves cartwheels and tumbling and especially standing on his hands. a lot. Today I got home from work and we had a 15 minute conversation while he was staring at me upside down.

Before every drop of blood rushed to his head I told him I want to show him something. So we headed over the the laptop and I asked him if he likes gymnastics.

"nope" he said.

"Do you know what that is?" I asked

"nope" he replied again.

I turned on the laptop and headed over to Youtube, the place any good father takes his son to teach him a lesson. and showed him this video.

At first I thought he was stunned at what he was witnessing, but right there, right in the middle when the guy just sticks a quadruple back flipimmajig Max looks me right in the eyes and boldly declares to all of the witnesses in the room

"I can do that"

The best part of this was that in that moment he actually believed it!

I love that about kids. I wish that we could all have that kind of confidence about our dreams. I wish that we didnt listen to fear so much. I wish we had people so passionate about changing the world and doing good for others that they the believed they could solve life's biggest problems.  Listen...

If you want to go to Central Africa say..."I can do that"
If you want to adopt a child say...."I can do that"
If you want to change careers at age 45 say...."I can do that"
If you want to develop a plan to get water to every person in the world say..."I can do that"
If you want to go to college say..... "I can do that"
If you want to walk across the street and meet a neighbor say..... "I can do that"
If you want to end the sexual slave trade say...."I can do that"
If you want to get out of debt say..... "I can do that"
If you want to save yourself for marriage say..... "I can do that"
If you have desire to go back to school say.. "I can do that"
If you want to write a book say ... "I can do that"

There is something in your heart stirring to get out. You have a dream and passion to make this world better than when you started. You have to decide to pursue it.

Will there be setbacks? of course
Will you fail? absoluetely
Will fear (and maybe even friends) tell you not to do it? no doubt

Will it take a lot of time? anything important does
Will you doubt it? probably everyday
Will you actually do it? Maybe

Maybe. That seems anti-climatic but its the truth.

I would be a fool to tell you that you will achieve 100% of your dreams! The reality is that you might not. But you must realize that you just might. 

"What if" is such a cool place to think about.

What if we did cure cancer.
What if you did write an all time best seller
What if every child in the world could go to school
What if people accepted everybody regardless of choices they made.
What if nobody had to worry about where clean water would come from.

The road to success of "What if" always leads through maybe. You will never achieve a dream or change the world turning away from "Maybe". You will never reach the goal by going to the valley of "I can't".

One final thought...honestly, sometimes you can't. again that's the truth. A 5 Gallon bucket can never ever hold 6 gallons. We all have limits. If "I can't" creeps into the landscape of your life remember than when "I can't" remember you are not alone and "We can".

Saturday, May 4, 2013


-Smile as much as you can

In life you will have troubles, difficulties and struggle. Do not deny the pain or miss the lesson to learn through hardship. When you walk through darkness the light will always seem much more beautiful. There are plenty of people in the world who are going through the same if not more difficult situations. Do not deny it but do not add to the gloom of this world if you can help it.

Be a light that shines bright for all to see.
Give people hope and joy.
See the good in life and bring attention to it.

There is something about a person smiling that changes anothers perspective, it may even save their life.  

You may not be able to remove the pain from a person's life but you can give them a dose of happiness if even for a moment. Smile. 

Smile. That's all it takes. It's contagious and will melt a heart of stone. Give it to the world and give it often!

Friday, April 26, 2013


-Never stop innovating.

There are ideas all around us. 

These ideas will release imagination and creativity in our mind, having the potential to solve problems and help the world in a thousand different ways.

People will say that because something is done well (a playground with a freaking sweet climbing wall for example) that you should stop improving it or thinking beyond it. Don't Listen to these voices. 

Most won't even think about it. Most will be happy just to go up and down the wall; obediently getting in line to place your hands and feet where somebody else tells you to on the wall. Don't settle for what has been already created, go deeper with ideas.

Never stop seeing the world from a different Angle. Your angle. You are the only one in the world who can see the world, and all it's problems and oppurtunities, with your perspective. Just maybe your perspective is the one that will solve a major dilemma in the world.

Be like Max.

Max says, "That's a cool climbing wall, but look over there. Mt. Everest needs to be scaled! I can do it! Oh sweet look at this rope that just happened to be lying around waiting to be used to scale the side of this mountain."

I love that about kids; they get a toy for their birthday and inevitably they turn to the box and the endless adventures it will provide as a rocket ship, doll house, or submarine!

We can learn so much from this.

When presented with a new shiny completed toy a child will often go for the empty box. In our soul, our nature calls to us, tells us or pulls us to create. From our inner being we strive to innovate, push the limits, dream big about what could be.

Don't stop dreaming. 
Don't stop creating.
Don't stop innovating.

The world needs you to be passionate about something.
The world is waiting for you to create something.
The world wants to know what you are bringing to the table of life.

Climb on young dreamer. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Secret Stash

  • A Secret Stash is better than cash 
 Little brothers are always getting into your things. Parents always make you share your things. The solution is to create a secret stash.

All little boys have these "treasure boxes" and most keep them until they are put in a box themself.

This "ditty box"  is more than just an accumulation of material possessions. For inside of this vault of personal belongings you will rarely uncover any item of worldly value.

The value that is found in this collection is tied not to the monetary weight of each piece but the story each item weighs on the collectors heart. We are creatures that forget and when we delight in an experience we often encounter a trinket that we can preserve to eternally lock that memory in our brain.

For ages, boys have collected these treasures and it is fun for a father (or mother) to help launch his son on this exciting journey. Women, you understand this. You, however, tend to be a more systematic creature organizing memories in books of scrap.

I recently had the pleasure to help begin Maxton's Secret Stash.

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 The Stage of Explanation

A young boy will grasp the concept of a Secret Stash much quicker than you may think. This is especially true of boys that have younger siblings. I had a lot of fun with the explaining stage; the mere thought of having a private place that nobody in the entire universe had access to was obviously an intriguing concept to Max. For a three year old (with 2 younger siblings) it ranks up there with mixing multiple Kool-aid's in one cup.

Needless to say (for once) I had Maxton's utmost attention as I began to lay out the blueprint for this promising proposition.

1. "Put your things in your box"

Do not put your brothers toys or trinkets in your box because he will ransack your box and retain any and all possessions that you have swiped. Most likely he will return the favor too. 

2.  "If you hide your secret stash remember where you hid it"

OK, this one seems obvious. I did not think this one would need to be told to Maxton because he has his mother's memory. In fact I was going to keep this entire adventure the above single rule. However, in the excitement of moving the stash from location to location to throw of the little blood-hound brother who he believed was hot on his trail, he misplaced his box.

That's it. 2 Rules. You need to keep it simple, open to discovery and free to make the experience whatever they want it to be.

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The Stage of Accumulation

As your son begins to acquire his possessions be careful not to set too many rules. Obviously, my son at age three is not going to be harboring illegal drugs; just check in every once in awhile during nap time to make sure nothing is stored away that could cause some sibling rivalry. Besides this keep it open and you will be fascinated by what your little collector puts value on as he amasses his memory treasures.

At this point of the game, young Maxton is mostly gathering some of his favorite things that he does not want to share but as time goes on I think it will inevitably become a treasure chest his future wife will roll her eyes at as he will over enthusiastically recalls countless stories to tell his buddies.

Don't tell him I told you this but Maxton's Secret Stash is currently securing:
  1. Thomas trains
  2. A rock from Lake Michigan
  3. $1 from Aunt Julie
  4. A gold medal (which he probably believes is for winning a race because he loves thinking he is being fast)
  5. A Hammer
  6. 3D Spiderman glasses
  7. Several "gold doubloon"(tokens from an arcade)
  8. Crackers (apparently holding out for when his parents don't give him a snack!)
  9. Last but not least, the most recent addition to the box of wonders is his Superman cape!

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The Stage of Retrospection

The third and final stage of this journey is what this pleasurable pastime is all about. The moment when you go back to your box, slowly lift the lid and walk down memory lane. In that moment you will return to a place in time that pure memory can not take you. Boys, and men, are creatures that are visually stimulated and seeing an object will evoke a memory much deeper than simple recollection.

This stage is even greater when you can share it with others; Whether its a couple of 7 year old's bantering of their grand hyperbolic adventures or an 86 year old great grandpa reliving his golden years in front of starry eyed young lad's captivated by the majesty of such treasures each is landing in the final stage.

The beauty of this process is that the final stage does not mean the end is in sight. The journey continues and the memories are waiting to be made and retained. 

Remember, in that moment when you kiss that cute little brown eyed girl, on the 7th hole at magic mountain and something in your brain tells you to steal the golf ball because you will want to remember this it (I did). When you win a medal for a season of sport or a medal of honor, you'll want to share that story...keep it. When you lose your first tooth or find a penny from your birth year...hold on to it. Oh the stories you will tell!

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Remember that keeping a treasure box is about retaining your story and sharing it with others. Your story is worth holding on to and passing on to the next generation. Your story will tell of your battles, victories, maybe your lady and your purpose in life; those that will follow will need to know that you faced these adventures with courage and honor and have the trinket to prove you made it to the other side.  

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 “We used to wait in the library in the evening until we could hear his key rattling in the latch of the front hall, and then rush out to greet him; and we would troop into his room while he was dressing, to stay there as long as we were permitted, eagerly examining anything which came out of his pockets which could be regarded as an attractive novelty. Every child has fixed in his memory various details which strike it as of grave importance. The trinkets he used to keep in a little box on his dressing-table we children always used to speak of as “treasures.” The word, and some of the trinkets themselves, passed on to the next generation. My own children, when small, used to troop into my room while I was dressing, and the gradually accumulating trinkets in the “ditty-box”—the gift of an enlisted man in the navy—always excited rapturous joy.”  – Theodore Roosevelt

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What's in your box? Here's some suggestions to get you started.
  1. Photo
  2. ticket stub
  3. pocket knife 
  4. compass
  5. Medals - athletic, academic, military, scouts etc.
  6. Zippo lighter
  7. shark tooth
  8. world money
  9. family recipes
  10. yo-yo
  11. bullet shells
  12. class rings
  13. 4H Ribbons
  14. Leatherman
  15. rabbit's foot
  16. Dog tags
  17. Police badge
  18. Harmonica/Kazoo
  19. small vacation souvenirs
  20. favorite pen
  21. straight razor
  22. religious medallions 
  23. sea shells
  24. arrow head
  25. duck call
  26. name tags
  27. fossils
  28. G.I. Joe
  29. baseball cards
  30. rocks
  31. tie tacks/clasp/cuff links
  32. (handcuff) keys
  33. cigar cutter 
  34. sand dollar
  35. bottle opener
  36. $2 bill
  37. Flight wings
  38. corncob pipe
  39. Dried flower from prom/wedding
  40. Rosary
  41. Varsity Letter
  42. autographs memorabilia
  43. graduation tassel
  44. Guitar pick
  45. Shifter knob
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

For another great article (where I gained much of my inspiration) check out THE ART OF MANLINESS BLOG : HERE