Scrap Kins

You all left such fantastic comments on my post last week.  This is the first of several replies I’ll be posting over the next few weeks.

          When I was eighteen, I dated a guy from the first floor of my dorm.  Actually, I dated quite a number of guys from quite a number of floors in quite a number of dorms.  It’s amazing how much of the freshman class a girl can get through if she dates each one for only two-and-a-half minutes.  They coined the term “serially monogamous” just for me.

            This particular guy was very sweet, so the relationship may have lasted as long as three or maybe four minutes.  Neither of us thought we were finding our soul-mate, and we broke up with absolutely no ill-will.  We continued on friendly-like throughout college, bumping up against one another doing theater or taking classes together.  We were both in Viking History, a small seminar, and then in Greek and Roman Mythology, a lecture that had about twice as many students as my graduating class from high school.  Brian and I often sat together in the lecture, and we joked that maybe we could make a major of Mythologies From Long Dead Societies.  Brian, it turned out, actually did major in that, although he called it “Folklore.”

            Now, a Folklore major may be the only major at Penn that is more useless than an English major, and you can rest assured that Brian got plenty of ribbing for choosing to major in Where the Wild Things Are while all his friends were preparing for careers in investment banking over at Wharton.  After college, he kicked around a bit here and there, and I’m sure all our friends on Wall Street tittered a little about humanities majors as they tucked into their six-figure incomes.

            We all know what half those Wharton graduates are doing right now, which is inserting their thumbs up their butts on the unemployment lines.  But, what is Brian doing?

            Brian has created an entire cast of lovable little monsters named the Scrap Kins.  These little furballs live in a recycling center, and they are the masters of the whole Reuse ethos.  They build their lives out of the crap you and I throw away.  Brian takes his Scrap Kins on the road to schools and parties and other events where children are likely to turn up.  He does art projects with the kids and uses his monsters to empower children to take responsibility for their own eco-living. 

            Brian, in other words, may be the only Folklore major in the history of Penn who actually is using what he learned in college. 

            So, when Lillian asks whether part of my angst is that I am subscribing to values that hold fame and beauty up above all else, the answer is “no.”  Brian, I suspect, is probably not about to start his own foundation with his personal wealth from teaching eco-art, and he looks about his age, which is to say my age.  But, he is using his talents to affect our world positively.  He is living a meaningful life.  That is the standard to which I am holding myself, and I am disappointed in myself. 

Brian has t-shirts and other Scrap Kins stuff for sale on Zazzle and Etsy.  If you are thinking of buying a gift for a child, the stuff he has is adorable, he’ll bend over backwards to make sure you are happy, and you will be supporting an artist who is trying to save the world our kids have to live in.  Please, go look at what he has to offer and think about whether you have any upcoming birthday parties to buy for.  Normally, I don’t review products on this blog because if I were getting something out of it I would feel like I was using my friends, but I asked Brian if I could write about him.  The work he is doing is so extraordinary and I believe in it so fully that I want to make sure you all know about it.

9 responses to “Scrap Kins

  1. Brian is definitely doing cool work. Very cool.

    Is he parenting three little kids (often long hours by himself), nursing one? I swear I am not being snarky. Just looking for a bit of perspective….

    I will say I got terribly depressed for a day or two when I heard Wendy Kopp (founder of Teach for America) is also the mother of three sons. Weird to compare but still. I am over it now.

  2. I love the idea of the Scrap Kins, and the idea of living your passion.

    I was laid off last week. Sort of. I’m still on maternity leave for a few months so I’m not rushing out to do anything yet. But now I’m looking at my life and feeling that I would like to do something useful, too. I would like to live my passion.

    Only I don’t know for sure what that is. And so I feel a little bit stalled. I hope we both can find some direction soon.

  3. love those Scrap Kins…so cool.
    I hear ya’. I often wonder what all my energy, intellect and passion is for – besides, you know, laundry, etc.

  4. It sounds like Brian is doing wonderful work and I’m going to check out his site.

    However: “But, he is using his talents to affect our world positively. He is living a meaningful life. That is the standard to which I am holding myself, and I am disappointed in myself. ”

    You are affecting the world positively, using your talents in this blog and in raising your children, both of which are meaningful. There is a difference between meaningful and satisfying. What is it that dissatisfies you?

    I am asking that in all seriousness.

    Yes–being a mom of young children isn’t always satisfying. It’s tiring, frustrating and sometimes boring (though meaningful!).

    But I’m wondering if in answering more specifically what you would find satisfying if there might be a direction to pursue.

  5. that’s awesome. have I already told you that we called our department at school “The Northwestern School of Waitressing?” 😉

    btw, i’ve cast you in a play at my place

  6. I started Googling people from my high school once – and like you, I discovered that they were all doing impressive, exciting things, like running their own successful businesses selling handmade jewelry while performing in a burlesque troop on the side (to name the most memorable one).

    Of course, there were lots of people I couldn’t find. But I assume they’re all doing things equally exciting, just under an assumed name.

  7. Very cool. I love what your friend has done.

  8. I think it’s really interesting that you go via another person, and someone you admire, to think about whether or not you have a meaningful life. It is so difficult to know how to say the right thing to make you feel better. But everything you do in this blog seems extremely meaningful to me, from your mothering to your writing to your political activities. Huge, great mountains of meaning. I do wonder what ideal is in your mind that you feel you are failing. Write it down – have a Harry Potter moment and declare it ridiculous. Whatever holds you apart from seeing what marvellous things you do is just not good for you.

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