Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ali the Artist

Many of you know me as one of the LolliDoo® Diapers co-founders. You may not know that I am also a formally trained artist. BL (before LolliDoo®) I was a relatively successful graphic designer.

Part of working through my grief after my brother's death last October, has been going back to my roots. I'd like to share some of my art.

These are all semi self portraits that I did in colored pencils. 

This next group is all acrylic on canvas of varying size. Some of my acrylics are available for purchase on Etsy.

I was very upset by all the anti-gay, anti-breastfeeding sentiments lately and these are my responses. (also available for sale). All acrylic on canvas of varying size. If you'd like more information or are interested in a commissioned piece please email me.

Lastly - a self portrait 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Checking In


I haven't been blogging lately - mostly because when I've been inspired to be creative, I've been painting. You can see some of my work on my new website: alisonmanes.comhttp://artist.alisonmanes.com/

I am not a web designer so please be patient with me as I muddle through creating website.

Also - today is my grandfather's 94th birthday and next week my grandmother will be 91. I am feeling so blessed and grateful to have them both still in my life. This is a video of them singing to eachother in 2010:

I am still very much grieving my brother and while I can now function like a human being - I am not feeling motivated to do much. Thank you for all the kind thoughts and prayers; I know that I will snap out of it at some point, just not now.


I just finished a Spring Catalog for LolliDoo® and LadyDoo® Rags - take a peek if you are so inclined: GGSI Spring

Also - soon we will be offering embroidered Flair for LollliDuos™... stay tuned for that announcement.

That is about all that's new in the Manes house. Thank you for staying with me through this trying time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Working Out Grief Through Art

My husband bought me a pack of Prisma pencils for my birthday in November. It was the best gift as it gave me an outlet to express my grief.  I started out drawing apples:

Apple on a coffee cup

Apple on a lid

Apples in basket

Then I moved on to sketching my brother

Jonny Blue

Jonny in August

Inside My Head

After that I went on to random topics:

Bleeding Heart

Happy Butterfly

Putting the Pieces Back Together


Creating art has been cathartic, helping me release emotions so that I can function. My brother's death is still raw and painful and my art reflects that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Keeping Things "Normal" For The Kids

As you know if you've read my previous post; my brother took his life last month. My kids are having a tough time with the loss of their beloved uncle and I've been trying really hard to hold it together around them. A few nights ago my two Littles put on a show for us. Zoe drummed while Talia sold trinkets. The trinkets were various items she found from a pencil to a bracelet. Anyways, here is my Dad trying to make us laugh. He was successful.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Brother's Suicide

On Wed. October 12th I got a text message from my little brother. The text said, "I just wanted to tell you that I love you". My heart sank and I thought that he was saying goodbye. I called him immediately and he convinced me that he was just expressing himself. We started talking about dinner reservations and other mundane topics. This is what I wrote to my girlfriends afterwards:
This is so messed of me... My brother texts me that he loves me and my first though is "Oh my God he's saying goodbye before he kills himself" WFT - I am so warped. FWIW - after I called panicked he said that he doesn't tell the people in his life how he feels enough and he's trying to remedy that. I am SUCH A JERK!
On Monday the 17th I got a call from Jonny's best friend David. David asked me if I had heard from Jon. I said that I had spoken to him last week. David said that Jonny wasn't calling him back, which is very out of character for him. I called him on my other line and he didn't pick up for me either. I asked David if he had gotten an "I love you text". David said yes and then I knew. I called my dad and asked him the same thing and he also said yes. I told him to call the police in Florida and have them go check on Jon.

At this point I was feeling a little bit silly for calling the police; I was hoping that Jon had taken off for Vegas or something and didn't tell anyone.

My dad called the police around 1pm.  I was going nuts waiting. At 2:30 I had to go pick my kids up from school. After I got them in the car; around 3:15, I got a call from my friend Morgan. She asked me where I was and I said picking the kids up. She said, "You have to go to your mom's house right now honey. Right now!"

I knew for sure that something horrible had happened. I began to cry uncontrollably and when my 11 year old asked me why I was crying I said, "Something happened to Uncle Jonny and I think he died". I had five kids with me and they all started crying. I called my oldest daughter who is at college and told her to drop everything and go to Nanny's house (my mom). I called my husband and told him the same thing.

When I got to my mom's house around 3:40 - I was met by Jordan, my oldest daughter. She ran to the car and I was surprised to see her because I had forgotten that I called. I must have already been in shock. She said, "They found his body". I started screaming and wailing like in the movies. I literally dropped to the ground and my mom had to come pick me up. I am not one for drama but that was my reaction. My poor kids had witnessed the entire thing.

The rest of the day is a blur. I know that many of my mom's friends came over to be with us. I called my sister-in-law because I had her son with me and told her what happened and she didn't even leave work to come get him, she sent her mom. (obviously I am still pissy about that). My husband was literally holding me up all day because my body was jelly and I couldn't stand on my own.

At some point we found out that my brother had shot himself in the heart. There was a note but the police had it.

The days after are also a blur. I packed, or rather my husband packed for me to go to Cleveland. I played detective trying to piece together what happened. This is my version:

After reading Jon's writings and evaluations from professionals I can say for certain that he was depressed and suicidal since the 90's. I didn't see it and there is a good reason why. He was happy with his family. His big hole in life was passionate love; he didn't know how to connect to peers or women. He was lonely and in love with a woman who didn't reciprocate.  He thought that he was too ugly for a woman to love. (Obviously I am summing up quite a bit)

So, after looking at his bank records and credit cards I know this. He spent thousands on this woman that he was in love with, but the money wasn't only spent on her. He flew her, her new husband and her son out to DisneyWorld all expenses paid. That was just one example, he did similar things several times.

Did she know how he felt? I don't know. Do I blame her for his death? No. I do think that she used him and no woman, or man would accept such extravagant gifts without an ulterior motive. I do think she is a gold digger but I don't think that anyone can be blamed for my brother's choice.

She got married 2 or 3 days before my brother ended his life. That right there says it all.

 I got on a plane and went to Cleveland to be with my family and have the funeral for my brother. People rallied around us there. There was someone at our (my dad's) house almost all the time feeding us, cleaning or just sitting. My girlfriends Jodi and Michelle hardly left my side. Several families chipped in to cater meals while we were in mourning. My cousins, grandparents and Aunt and Uncle were constant companions. My Aunt, who rightfully should have been waited on like the rest of us, insisted on organizing all the meals and picking them up.

I slept at Jodi's most nights and I got to crawl into bed with her and her husband (both friends of mine since childhood). Jodi and Michelle ran errands for me, drove me around and held me while I cried. I am so grateful to have them.

If there can be a bright side to this nightmare - it's that I re-connected with my family in Cleveland. They started a "Get Ali To Move Back To Cleveland" campaign and I really do want to move back home. The trouble is that I have a blended family and I will be taking three kids away from their other parents. Chuck and I decided to spend the summer in Cleveland and then to really decide after a year of mourning has passed so that we know our decision wasn't made out of grief.

Right now I feel really alone in Tucson - my mom is here and she's wonderful and loving and present but I don't have the same level of friend and family support that I do in Cleveland. One of my girlfriends came over a couple of times and that was about it. No one calls. No one stops in to check on me. It's just me, my family and my mom.  My heart hurts because I miss my family in Cleveland and my friends.

I found a support group for suicide survivors and I am taking some comfort from that.

I know that it's only been three weeks but I can't imagine ever feeling complete again. My brother was not just my brother; he was my confidant, my stable adult male in my kids life, my best friend and my partner in crime. I miss him every minute of every day. I'm not mad at him but I am so, so, so sad that he was in so much pain and no one knew. Furthermore, even if I did know, that was a hole that I just couldn't fill.  All my life I protected him, advocated from him and loved him. Now he's gone and it's surreal.

Me and Jonny in 1991

Jonny and I as kids

One of Jon and Jordan's Disney Trips - Uncle Jonny really spoiled her :)

A rare photo of Jon smiling as an adult. This is his best friend David.

Last May at Jordan's high school graduation; the last family photo I have with me, Jon and both our parents

Disney World 2005 with three of my girls

This is classic Jon

A year ago today; Jonny with me and my mom

My girls SO loved their uncle

Old family photo that Jonny had on his FaceBook; these are some of my cousins

Hanging out with his nieces in Florida

I'm pasting my Eulogy below in case you want to read about Jon's life:

My brother was born Oct. 1, 1976. He was silly, inquisitive and kind and he had the biggest heart and the most contagious smile. He was the most generous man – he would help anyone out with anything; no questions asked. He loved his family and friends fiercely and he would do anything to make our lives more wonderful.

As a small child, Jonathan had a language disorder called Aphasia, which meant that he had difficulty remembering words and sometimes he mixed up grammar and tenses.. As a result he had some memorable “jon-isms”. Bananas were balabahs, Aunt Bonnie was “hey Lady” at first and then progressed to “Aunt Boonie” as he got older. Lisa; our babysitter of several years, was just plain “babysittar!”

When Jonny  was a toddler he held out his arms to Aunt Judy saying, “unc Denny!” My parents didn’t keep much junk food in the house but Jon knew where to go to get his fix. On arriving at Aunt Judy and Uncle Denny’s house he frequently said “You got anything with sugah?” My Aunt Judy used to make molded chocolate candy and Jonny discovered where she was storing the trays. Soon after the candy mysteriously vanished and jon had chocolate around his mouth.

Another famous Jon-ism was “you got anything was bwoken?” When Jonny was a kid he was fascinated by how things worked, specifically electronics. He would walk up and down our street looking for TVs that people were throwing away. If he was lucky enough to find one; he would either haul it home or enlist the help of our neighbor Larry Chernikoff to help him get his treasure home. Once Jonny got the TV home he would spend hours taking it apart in our basement. Once the television was unrecognizable; he would abandon it to find another. Not once did he put anything back together.

As Jon grew; his curiosity abounded. When he was 6 or 7 my parents had our entire backyard bordered in heavy stone pavers. Jonathan wanted to see the bugs underneath the pavers so he systematically lifted each paver, looked underneath for bugs and then discarded it onto the grass until the entire border was a pile of rocks on the grass. My parents saw the mess and were so surprised that such a little guy could life those heavy pavers that they just had to laugh.

Another time that year Jonny was sent to his room for a time-out. I can’t remember what the offense was but he was so irate at being sent to his room that he took every single piece of furniture; including his bed and dresser, and put them out in the hallway. No one could get through until he was calm enough to put everything back. Again; my parents shook their heads in wonder and laughed. My dad was famous for telling jonny, “Im laughing but I’m really mad”

There was a period of time when Jonny was little that every morning he would tell my parents, “I see you”. They really didn’t think much of it until they discovered the hole he had somehow drilled into the suitcase closet in his room which was next to their room. Sure enough – Jonathan was spying on our parents through the hole. Luckily all he could really see was their ceiling.

Jonny enjoyed food immensely, so much that when he was eating something particularly yummy, he would hum. Like this (hum) One December we were at my Uncle Al and Aunt Sue’s house in Florida and Jonny was eating cheesecake. He asked for seconds and when my mom said “you must have really enjoyed that”, Jonny came back at her with, “well, I wasn’t humming”.

As Jonny got older he really enjoyed organizing things.  My room looked like a small tornado had run through it and it drove Jonny crazy. So much so that he would sneak into my bedroom when I wasn’t home, to clean and organize it. I came home after one of his organizing sprees to find that he had not only organized my stuff; he had helpfully thrown away all my trash which included my term paper that was due the next day.

Some of Jon’s fondest memories are of Hershey Family Vacations and 4th of July gatherings. He truly loved being surrounded by his family. He loved to reminisce and he had been trying to get everyone on board for another trip this year.

Jonathan spared no expense when it came to me and his nieces – he enjoyed the finer things in life and he showed his love by lavishing what he could on us. He was a loving uncle; my kids adored him. He spent quality time with each and every one of my kids on a regular basis; spoiling them as only as Uncle Jon can do. When Jordan moved out to start college this fall she had the essentials that any college student would need. Jonny, however, wanted her to have everything and proceeded to buy her a plasma tv, a wii, more furniture and a bunch of other stuff that she really didn’t need. I said to him, Jon it’s supposed to be a little but harder then this and his reply was, “She’s my neice and I don’t want her to do without”. Obviously, Jonny and I had different ideas of what doing without meant.

Jonny had been begging me to bring my family to Disney World and Universal Studios. I explained to him over and over that it was just way too expensive to take a family of 8 cross country and especially to theme parks. He couldn’t wrap his mind around that because he so loved to play. In true Jonathan fashion, he made sure that I took the girls to Disney. His last wishes were that we spread his ashes in a lake by Disney World and Universal Studios. That’s Jon for you.

Jonathan – you are missed and loved more then you will every know. Safe journeys little brother, rest in peace. I love you and I forgive you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Buy Local - A Call To Action

Why Companies Manufacture Overseas
Companies have nearly $500 billion stashed abroad that can be taxed here at home. There are several reasons why companies choose to manufacture overseas;  I am sure that the financial benefits take precedence. To read what I have to say about the cost of manufacturing overseas click here.

My work wife, Melissa, and I chose to keep our products made locally for several reason. If you have interest; here is the back story. 

What YOU can do
>Contact lawmakers<
If our lawmakers revoke the tax breaks for overseas manufacturing and bring the big companies back to the USA, I believe that our economic future would look brighter. I humble suggest contacting our lawmakers and demanding that they stop giving companies incentives to manufacture overseas.

Here is a link with all the Congressmen and Congresswomen's contact information and here is a link that lists the Senators.

>Buy Made in the USA<
I am no economist but I am fairly certain that if Americans buy products made in the USA and support our mom and pop shops, it would make a difference.
Why Buy Local
Buying products made in the USA supports our local economy by providing jobs, which support families and generate domestic spending. Buying domestic also reduces the environmental impact by eliminating energy to ship goods internationally. Refusing to buy anything made outside of America will be a challenge for sure. While clothing and food are easier to find locally; I could not find any cell phones that are made in the USA nor could I find televisions. I did find this site that lists made in the USA products. *Note to self; get LolliDoo® listed*

Melissa and I manufacture in the USA using domestic components because we strongly feel that WE can make a difference, and SO CAN YOU! Next time you go shopping, instead of hitting Target or WalMart; try checking out a local mom and pop shop.

Read labels; I cannot reiterate this enough. Oftentimes folks believe that they are purchasing something made in the USA because the company is based out of the US when in actuality the goods are manufactured overseas. Additionally your items may be manufactured in the USA but the components are from overseas. It's not easy to find 100% American made goods.

I'm sure that this is a simple answer to a complex problem but I am confident that small changes make a big difference.

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Tye-Dye and Batik Projects

I really, really, really love to create tye-dye and especially batik works of art. I NEVER use batik blocks or other stamps. Everything I made is hand painted freehand. Here's a peek:

Two color batik

Women's skirt that I wound up keeping because I loved it so much

Dolphins - I wish that I had a better picture

Two color batik

Tye Dyed LolliDoo® Fitted Innie™

Another LolliDoo®

Matching outfits

3 color batik

Someone was very specific in what she wanted :)

Two color tye-dye with a little batik

Two color batik

A tiny batik

Multicolor batik scarf

Three color batik scarf