happy new year

Please Pray

Over the past several weeks I have gotten together with another mom who has found herself in the position of being given a fatal prenatal diagnosis for her son. This mom's precious baby has been diagnosed with triploidy, a lethal genetic condition. She bravely chose to carry her son to term, and is scheduled to deliver him on Tuesday, January 4th, 2011.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be walking with this dear mom on this most unthinkable path; I am grateful that she would allow me into her place of pain; and I am trusting that God is using our experience with Isaac to bring some level of comfort to this family.

I am asking that you would please pray for this family... for this mom, her husband, their two young daughter, and their precious son who is about to be born. Would you please pray for comfort, for peace. Would you please pray for the staff who will be caring for them (which includes my friend, nurse Kathy, that helped deliver both Isaac and Eliana). Would you pray that their time with their son would be precious, and that somehow a lifetime of love would be squeezed into such a finite time? Would you pray for a restful night's sleep the night before for this mother and her husband? Would you pray for wisdom for them as they continue to try to explain this to their two young daughters? Would you pray for a miracle?

One of the things I love about having a blog is being able to write posts like this, and confidently knowing that others will be praying. If you desire to do so, feel free to leave your prayers in the comments below and I will forward them along to this sweet family.

Thank you for joining me in lifting them in prayer...

Joy...

Christmas day was a bit hectic with lots of running around a family to visit. Our day started like it has the past three Christmases... with a trip to the cemetery. It's a strange thing to begin Christmas there. I am not sure that I will ever get used to that; yet at the same time, it wouldn't feel right to NOT be there. We made the Baltimore "circuit" after that, with stops at my Mom's, my Dad's, and my aunt's house with all of my extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins...) on my Dad's side of the family. We were supposed to head up to Manhattan for a few days to visit Spencer's family, but decided against driving right into a blizzard and inches upon inches of snow. Enjoy taking a look at Eliana's first Christmas!!

Eliana checking out her new chair!
My Pal Violet!


Reading her new butterfly book...

With Grandma and Grandpa Jim!


Reading with Grandpa Jim

Presents!


Hangin' out with Dad by the fire...


Checkin' out Auntie Kate's new bag...


Reading with Pop-Pop!
All smiles :)
The obligatory (and fun!) annual cousin photo!


I pray that your Christmas was filled with unspeakable joy as you celebrated the birth of Jesus, the One whose presence was the greatest gift of all!

Isaac and the Whale: A Road Trip Blog

(This blog has nothing to do with Christmas. Deal with it. Merry Christmas.)

I will assume none of you know anything about me and tell you that I recently acquired a 1977 RV and am now living in it full time, no hobo. For the last 6 months or so it has been at an RV shop getting its interior updated to the level of luxury and comfort to which I am accustomed. *cough* On the day it was finished, my girlfriend Nichole and I smashed a bottle of fine champagne on her hull (the RV's, not Nichole's) and took her on her maiden voyage. (the RV, not Nichole.)

The route? Southbound on Highway 101, a scenic byway that traces the west coast. The destination? Las Vegas, for my girlfriend's wedding--I mean, her brother's wedding. I keep accidentally telling people "my girlfriend's wedding", but that just doesn't make sense. It would be weird and awkward to attend my own girlfriend's wedding. I envision some seriously tense undercurrents in the congratulatory handshakes. Anyway--a road trip!!!

Our first stop of note: Tillamook Cheese Factory. We tour the facility. Where are all the wise old elvish cheesemongers lovingly rolling wheels of handcrafted artisan cheese into ancient caves and cellars to sleep for years and age to perfection? What are all these conveyor belts and tattooed girls in hairnets? This is bullshit. I will never buy Tillamook again.

What follows is a harrowing late night race down the 101, which claims to be a federal highway but has the curves and hills and world-rocking potholes of a disused logging road. At one point we careen around a corner and the trees open up revealing a vast empty blackness beyond the freeway. Nichole screams--we are about to drive off the edge of the universe into the nightmarish void beyond!!! But it turns out that's just how the ocean looks in the dark when you're on a perilous cliff. We continue south, listening to our dishes shattering in their cupboards as pothole after bottomless pothole sends the RV airborne.

We eventually come out of the woods and reach safe haven: a brewery. We park for the night and enjoy some beers in celebration of not getting raped by hillbillies. We actually win at bar trivia, even though there are only two of us and neither of us are all that smart. It's the first time I've ever won anything in my life.
(False. I once won 50 cents on a 25 cent pull-tab.)

The next day I wake up and sweep open my windshield curtains and realize that we are parked literally 200 feet from the ocean. I immediately dump any doubts I ever had about my plan to live in an RV.

Not a bad view for 0$ a month...





MY RV




1977 GMC Birchaven


Name: "Baleen the Big Blue Whale"


Length: 23 feet


Wheels: 6


Sleeps: 2 comfortably, 3 uncomfortably, 4 hatefully


Kitchen: Yes


Bathroom: Phonebooth-sized


Engine: Oldsmobile 455 V8


Fuel economy: Sobering


Looks like:




















Travel continues at a breakneck pace. We have only 8 days to cover 1,608 miles of scenic byway littered with tourist traps and roadside attractions marked by cartoonishly oversized road signs screaming for attention. We stop in the Redwood Forest at a place called Trees of Mystery. There are a lot of trees, but none of them are particularly mysterious. It does, however, afford us the opportunity to take photos next to Paul Bunyan's pet ox's giant blue balls.

Maturity.


The ox is named Babe the Blue Ox. Babe the Blue Ox and Baleen the Big Blue Whale have some bonding time and discuss the pleasures and pitfalls of being big and blue. (I assume)

We stop in a very maritime little seaside shanty town by the sea and eat ocean-style chowder at a marine-themed restaurant near the water. The chowder is mediocre but our senses finally shake free from their cream-soaked stupor when we hear a harsh, alien barking noise coming from the direction of the oceanic bayside sea area. We knock our chowder off the tables and run to the dock.

SEA LIONS!!!


(They go apeshit at 00:25)



Listen to them roar! King of the underwater jungle! 
Apparently they just hang out on this dock all day, barking and roaring and generally making asses of themselves in the most adorable way. Nichole has about 50 cutegasms watching them.

Onward.

We continue south. Time is running out. We camp in a few gas stations. I make Nichole eggs benedict for breakfast. She is unimpressed. We continue south.

LOS ANGELES!!!

We park Baleen near Venice Beach and meet up with Steve, a fancy Hollywood type whose wife Bruna is the producer for the upcoming picture show, WARM BODIES. Bruna loans us her Prius.

I'M DRIVING A PRIUS!

IT'S QUIET! IT'S FUEL EFFICIENT! ALL ITS MAJOR FUNCTIONS ARE CONTROLLED VIA ELECTRONIC DIGITAL COMPUTERIZED VIDEO SCREENS AND I CAN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO RELEASE THE E-BRAKE! PEOPLE WANT MY PARKING SPOT AND ARE HONKING AT ME!

Steve directs us to a bar at a cool hotel where lots of famous people have died and/or killed themselves. Neither Nichole or I die or kill ourselves there. I guess we are not famous enough.

Later, Steve takes us to a fancy Hollywood-type place called the Soho Club. Not just any old riff-raff can go there. You have to be a Soho Club Member. They have tall and attractive women of color at all their help desks (I assume their consistent color is coincidence but find myself wondering) and the elevators have plush walls. There are cool trinkets everywhere. There are live trees in the bar and we can see the entire city through the wall-to-wall glass and Steve buys me a Scotch drink. Steve is the coolest man living.

We sleep in Baleen and leave LA at the crack of dawn. (Nichole cracks dawn at around 11:00) We drive all damn day.

VEGAS!!!

We are in Las Vegas for Nichole's wed--Nichole's BROTHER's wedding. Nichole's mom has rented us a room at the Excalibur, a hotel that looks like a giant Playskool castle.

This is not a cartoon.


I have never been to Vegas before. The first thing we do is run across town to the MGM Grand to attend a country music award show. (Nichole thinks she is a hillbilly.)

This is a cartoon.

This was not the Country Music Awards. (CMAs) It was the American Country Awards. (ACAs) I'm not totally sure if they were giving out awards to the musicians or if the musicians were just there to give awards to America, which is by far the most American of all the American countries. Either way, America definitely won, and Toby Kieth sang a song about 9/11.



Later that night, we went to a fancy Vegas-type club. Someone took us into a velvety back room where young women with suspiciously spherical breasts kneeled in front of our table and poured drinks for us like we were some sort of fancy Hollywood types or maybe Persian kings. I got sleepy so I bought a Red Bull, and it cost 9 dollars. Later, some things happened in Vegas which will, according to legend, stay in Vegas.

The next day Nichole's brother got married at his wedding. Then Nichole's whole family and I went out on the streets and got Vegas-style drunk. Did you know? You can drink ANYwhere in Vegas! I walked up to a little stand on the sidewalk and bought a Long Island Iced Tea, then walked around dranking that drank amongst crowds of mothers and children.

BEER PONG!

I play beer pong! We go to a college-themed frat bar and we play several rounds of beer pong! (or "Beet Pong" as I call it in a Twitter tweet while under the influence of beets--I mean beer) I discover it is my favorite competitive sport! I almost win twice!

I get very, very drunk.
Things get hazy at this point.
A taxi driver talking about beating up his customers...?
Fat girls dancing on the bar at Coyote Ugly...?
Mike Tyson's house...? No that's from a movie...

....


The next day we wake up and don't feel so good. There must be something in the Vegas air that is giving us headaches and stomachaches and soulaches. We leave Vegas.

GOING HOME!!!

We're done. Finished. Vanquished. We're going home. We revisit LA, this time with much more time to spare. We go to Hollywood, where I find to my surprise that I already have a star on the Walk of Fame.



If I'm this famous, why didn't I die/kill myself at that hotel earlier? It's a puzzle.

We go to the wax museum and take touristy pictures with the wax figures go to some exclusive Hollywood clubs and hang out with celebrities. I scope out hotties with George. Nichole understands.

Dude. George. That girl keeps looking over here. You should like, talk to her.


After we leave the exclusive Hollywood clubs we get abducted by time-traveling Starfleet Officers because only I can save the future. Nichole snaps a candid shot of me giving commands to the two greatest men in space history.

"Make it happen!" or whatever.


We park Baleen on a freeway overpass and spend two nights there. Baleen bounces around and rocks back and forth every time a truck drives under us. It feels like we're involved in a street riot. When the van's a-rockin'...etc.

When we finally leave LA, we enter a fugue state in which we drive for hours and hours with no food or water or conversation. I-5 is the most boring freeway in America, which is why it's the fastest.

Literally nothing happens the entire way home. We get home.

We're home now.

The End


DELETED SCENES!!!


I want you all to contemplate the fact that this exists.

Nothing says Holiday Cheer like severed baby heads hung from a tree.

Nichole prays to her goddess. Beyonce grants her a fine ass.

Yeah I drive in sweatpants. And camp in Wal-Mart parking lots.










Big News!!

No, I am not pregnant. Just to put it out there :)

I am incredibly excited to share that Isaac's playground is going to be built very soon!!! The construction of our new church building was delayed due to some permit issues. However, those were resolved, and we moved into our new building this fall.

Over the past few weeks, a committee from church has been meeting to discuss Isaac's playground, select equipment, and decide on colors. The distributor we decided to go with was even having a sale on equipment that allowed us to order a structure larger than we had anticipated, which is awesome!

Below is a rendition of what the playground will look like. We are going to order a customized sign as well, and are hoping to add a few benches and maybe a couple of those springy ride-on creatures.

I know it goes without saying that I would much rather have Isaac here than have a playground built in his memory. But... we are so grateful for the generosity of so many people, including many of you readers, to be able to make the construction happen. We are grateful for the opportunity to give something back to our church, and to see it bring joy to so many children, including our precious Eliana, in the years to come. God's provision in this project has been abundant, and we are so thankful!


Last Official Open House of the year- this Saturday- December 18th

I feel like I am living in that movie, Groundhog Day. This has been a busy month. I don't remember the last time I kept the kiln fires burning so often. I am currently firing the last kiln of the year in preparation for Saturday's open house, here at the studio, 1150 E 800 S in Salt Lake, from ten to five. If you would like to be on my email list for future mailings about shows and sales, email me at benbehunin@comcast.net .
I also have the full Niederbipp Trilogy here at the studio for only $36--40% off the retail price. I have had a steady stream of folks coming for last minute gifts and would love to see you too. Niederbipp always welcomes you.
I am looking forward to some time off from pottery to write. I will update the blog soon about that, but I am really excited about this story. It seems to be knocking on my door with at least as much force as the Niederbipp series did and that makes me really happy. I am excited to find out what the universe wants me to learn this time.
Maybe I'll see you this weekend. Viva Niederbipp!

Scary!



Heres another personal piece from today ...and just in case you missed it, at the end of the month I will be raffling off a whole lot of artwork. All you have to do to enter the raffle is follow my blog on blogger, I can't see who you are on google reader so it's gotta be blogger too.

And if a chance in the raffle is not enough, there's another way to get some free art...

Anyone who is nice enough to post a link to my blog on their website or blog I will give you 2 signed post cards. All you gotta do is post a link, and send me an email with your address and blog address ( so I can verify the link) and I will send off some postcards pronto! My email is Isaac@orloffillustration.com..thanks!

RIP Wild Blll






I have been very busy and neglected the blog entirely. Thank you to all my new followers. Unfortunately, I got some bad news today, a good family friend and very talented artist named Bill passed away today. This piece is a tribute to him, one of the funniest, warm hearted people I have met in a long time. Hopefully somehow you can see this Bill I know you would enjoy it.

And also don't forget! At the end of the month I will be raffling off a whole lot of artwork. All you have to do is follow my blog on blogger, I can't see who you are on google reader so it's gotta be blogger too. Thanks everyone!

Sundays

Many Sundays I still find myself leading worship and preaching at various churches but I also have frequent days like today. Days filled with enjoyable activities, family, and relaxation. It is still a bit of a "culture shock" from when I served as a parish pastor with all the responsibilities and busyness of each Sunday.
Today I attended worship at St. Peter Lutheran Church which is just a couple of miles up the road. After church I walked three miles in the dry and warm Mall in Wilton. On the way home I purchased a few "goodies" at the Dunk'n for Mary and John. Arriving home, I cooked omelets for our brunch and we sat at the table lingering over coffee and the newspaper. I then prepared a pot of chili which simmered on the stove throughout the afternoon as I watched football and dozed on the couch. These activities might sound mundane and boring to many but for me they are what makes this chapter of my life so rich. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to enjoy a "Sabbath Day" in this simple way.

So Small

This past week on the way to work, I had one of those moments. You know the ones. Maybe you've had one yourself. Those times when a perfectly timed tune renders you clown-faced because your freshly applied mascara is now smeared down your face thanks to the many tears you suddenly started to shed. This time, I have Carrie Underwood to thank.

A few years ago, I first heard her song "So Small" and used it for a lesson with my 6th grade English students at the time. I thought I had come up with this great, creative, high-interest lesson that my students would totally love. After all, who didn't love Carrie Underwood? Apparently the 6th grade boys. And my lesson flopped :)

I hadn't heard the song in quite a while. When I heard it this past week, the lyrics themselves would have been enough to trigger my response. However, this time, snippets from parents whose children were battling, or had lost their battle with, cancer were superimposed as the song was playing. I quickly realized that this radio station was holding a fundraiser for St. Jude's. So as I listened to this song, which was somewhat consoling to me after I miscarried our first baby at 13 weeks back in late 2007, I was flooded with emotions... emotions of that time as I remembered going in for an ultrasound and being told my baby no longer had a heartbeat; emotions of our time with Isaac as I listened to these parents talk about how they were praying and pleading for their child's life. And the flood gates opened.

You may not be familiar with the lyrics, and if that's the case, you can find them here. While so much of this song has to do problems that feel huge, our perseverance through them, and looking on the bright side. I will be the first to say that I truly know that some of life's struggles really are huge... that it's not necessarily just a matter of a perspective shift, but that it's a deep, deep struggle. A struggle of grief; a struggle of making sense of it all; a struggle of reconciling tragic circumstance with a God who is truly good, but yet still allowed it to happen.

What struck me differently this time was the refrain, which talks about how when you figure out that love is all that matters after all, it makes everything else seem so small. And while this was never intended to be a Christmas song, this sentiment sure reminded me of it.

Because you see, many of us, myself included, face so much stress around the holidays. Stresses of overcommitment; stresses of family gatherings and the good, bad, and ugly that can sometimes come along with that; stresses of maybe not being able to "afford Christmas" this year because of the economy, but yet not wanting to disappoint. And yet, what really matters most, particularly during this Christmas season, is love.

To borrow some of my own words from last year, "Over 2000 years ago, God began his redemptive plan for humanity... for your soul and for mine. On this night, Love came down... leaving His heavenly throne, and made his way humbly into our world as tiny baby in a manger whose name is Jesus...to walk among us sharing a story of hope and redemption, and to ultimately give up his own life for the sake of ours. "

That is love... and that is the spirit of Christmas. When we understand this, it really alters our perspective and helps the stresses of the holiday season to not occupy the space in our minds and our hearts that they don't deserve. This love makes everything else seem so small in comparison, when we truly remember what Christmas is all about.

It is my hope and prayer for your family that this time of year would be filled with great joy and a sense of wonder as you are reminded anew of God's redemptive plan not only for all of humanity, but specifically for your heart and for mine. That your time with our family and friends would be rich, but that your time with your Savior would be richer.

I need to wrap this up (no pun intended!), but I would love to hear what your favorite Christmas tradition is with your family... whether it is something from your childhood and growing up, or something that you started once you got married or had your own children. I love getting this peek into your lives, and hearing your ideas! I thought this would be a fun thing to share, and that perhaps many of us could find new ways to celebrate this Christmas!

Two More Weeks for Open House

Just a reminder that the
Wild Rooster Artworks Studio Open House will continue on the next two Saturdays at 1150 E 800 South in Salt Lake (my studio behind my home)
These will run from 10-5 with fresh pots on each Saturday. If Saturdays don't work for you, give me a call. 801-883-0146. I will be in the studio most days and dozens of people are stopping by during the week, hoping to catch me on the wheel. This is kind of nice because it gives me a chance to talk to people on a more personal level that the crowded open house does not afford. I have all three books available here as well as lots of pottery, mugs, bowl, platters, tiles. You can see many of these items at www.potterboy.com
If you are out of town and would like to order the books, either for yourself or for someone you love, you can do that by calling me directly or by ordering online at Amazon. While you're there, take the opportunity to fill out a review. It is fast and easy and helps spread the good news of the Niederbipp Trilogy.
If you would like to receive a copy of my annual newsletter via email, send me an email to benbehunin@comcast.net and I will send one your way.
I hope to see you sometime soon. Happy Holidays.
Viva Niederbipp! Ben

Where Have I Been?

Sorry for the long silence. Expect it to continue.



This is what I graded over the Thanksgiving break. A lot of that stuff is printed double-sided, and I wrote on every page.

I have a half again as much to do between now and the end of the semester. Then, I may breathe (and blog) again.

Thanksgiving

Better late then never, as the old saying goes, right?

This year, we packed ourselves up and headed to Atlanta to visit Spencer's sister and her family. Spencer's dad, brother, and other sister flew from Manhattan and met us there as well. It was great to introduce Eliana to her aunt and uncle, as well as her cousins that she had never met. I was able to meet up with a few friends while we were there as well, one of whom I have known since she was a freshman in high school and I was her Young Life leader.

While the weather didn't fully cooperate for a lot of outdoor activities, we spent some time playing board games, going to the aquarium, and just being together. Admittedly, I was a little nervous about flying with a baby for the first time. All in all, Ellie did a great job... and even getting through security at the airport during one of the busiest travel weekends of the year proved to be pretty easy!

Enjoy a few highlights from our trip...








New Years Giveaway!




Since CTN I have been meaning to get into some more detailed sketches and environments but I have not had the time with work and the holidays and such. Heres a sketch I had some time to complete tonight on some down time from work. Hopefully everyone is having a good holiday season, tonight is the first nigh of Hannukah!
Since it is the holiday season, why not give away some artwork? At the end of this month, I will give away 5 pieces of artwork. 5 prints, and one original sketch. All you have to do is follow my blog on blogger to be entered into the giveaway! January 1st will be the announcement of the winners. Stay tuned and thank you all for the support!