My brother would have been 45 today

We don’t really make a point of birthdays or remembrance of deaths in my family.  But this week I remembered that September 12 would have been my baby brother Neil’s birthday.  Then I had to figure out how old he would have been.  Since he was born in 1969 he would have been turning 45.

Neil had Tuberous Sclerosis – which meant he had all sorts of tumours throughout his body – on his organs, in his brain, raised red rash on his face, etc. He only had one kidney that was still working and only at about 10% and they did MRIs every six months to monitor the brain tumours.

We had a couple of bad scares when he started to hemorrhage, passing blood on Boxing Day 1997 – they couldn’t do anything for him so they gave him narcotics and sent him home to wait.  He came out of that.  Then he started bleeding again around Christmas 1998 – this time there was a top surgeon visiting (we lived in Vancouver at the time) who operated by going in through Neil’s thigh and implanted little metal coils in the blood vessels that feed the bleeding kidney (it was the size of a football and all tumour, no longer a functioning kidney).  The coils formed blockages which stopped the bleeding AND stopped feeding the tumours.

Due to seizures as a baby and toddler, before he was diagnosed and medication controlled the seizures, he suffered some brain damage – he functioned differently, I explain it to be like autism.  He was brilliant if he was interested in something… but he never showed it to the doctors or psychologists who were assessing and testing his abilities.  He was kept in kindergarten for three years – then he was just too big.  So he was in special classes the rest of his school career (until he was almost 16.)  His last year they let him sit in a corner and do his own thing because they said he was so far below the level of the rest of the special class they couldn’t spend time with him.

This was the kid who at the age of 4 could spell and pronounce all the dinosaur names and explain their physical traits to you.  Who, later, read all the books on Greek Mythology we could find and knew all the gods and demigods names, relationships and powers AND could spell all the names.  Who, at a restaurant could add up the bill, add the tax and tell you what you owed, all in his head.  But he couldn’t figure out handling cash – no idea that he should wait for change.  Wouldn’t use a microwave as he set fire to bacon once in it.  He was a bit OCD – compulsive collector.  Had a room just for him for his Transformer collection.  He was a fantastic artist.  He was physically strong up until the last year or so.  And was a very hard worker.

He loved art, theatre and concerts, LOVED to travel and visit museums and historic sites.

He was a big, strong guy.  Usually shaved bald.  Pretty intimidating to strangers.

He came to make-up school with me and was my model – which meant I got twice the time in class (as I didn’t have to model for another student!)  They made him get in our class picture at graduation.

He used to tell people he had four mothers – because he had three older sisters who spoiled him and/or bossed him around.

He collapsed one morning in February 2006 – his skin was yellowish.  We called an ambulance… it was Friday morning.  We called my sisters and uncle who was closest – and waiting until everyone who could come arrived.  His organs were shutting down – the liver and kidneys were gone.  And he was in a constant state of seizure. Life support was turned off on Sunday.

The funeral home packaged his ashes in vials so I’ve been scattering him around the world on our travels so he could continue to get to the places he was interested in.


Me, Neil and Mom, 1991.

Me, Neil and Mom, 1991.


Mom, Neil and I, Hawaiian Cruise 1996

Me, Mom and Neil, 2003.

Me, Mom and Neil, Arica, Chile 2003.

Mom and Neil, Temple of the Sun, Peru 2003

Mom and Neil at the Temple of the Sun, Peru 2003

Picture 232

Neil at Versailles, 2003


Me, Nathalie (our guide), Mom and Neil, Paris 2003

Neil Elementary

Elementary School photo of Neil circa 1977

Neil was my best model – always game for it…

maddoctor sfxmummy klingon sfxcobraman sfxburn fpnuts fpmice fplion2

Including my 2005 design that won Face Painter of the Year for me in 2005:


This is the last photo taken of Neil – taken at Christmas 2005.  He has just opened the present from our sister, Shari, which was a complete collection of Transformer cartoons and books… he was thrilled.  It is really hard to believe that it has been over eight years since he died.




I’ve received an award

A major award!  And no, not this one…


… although that one did arrive in a box marked “Fragile”.

I was named the recipient of the 2014 Jennie Tetreau Award is for Long Term Outstanding Service by Grande Prairie Live Theatre at their Annual General Meeting yesterday.


The criteria are: 1) continuous involvement in the activities of Grande Prairie Live Theatre over a period of five years or longer. Or, 2) an unselfish commitment of time and energy in a variety of capacities such as, board member, producer, director, actor, stage manager, production assistance or fundraising. Or, 3) recognized and respected for their contribution among members of Grande Prairie Live Theatre and in the broader community of Grande Prairie and Alberta.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be there as I had a birthday party booked for the same time as the meeting, but I picked up my plaque this afternoon.

I got involved with GPLT shortly after we moved up here to Grande Prairie.  The first show I worked on was Love Letters in September 2000 so that is exactly 14 years ago.  During those years I have been involved with 71 shows as make-up/hair lead, 7 shows as an actor, 1 as costume designer (along with assisting with costume and props on several others) and I also served a term on the Board of Directors.  I had to go and count the number of productions I’ve been involved with… I have to say I am impressed, I didn’t realize how many there have been to-date!

I love working in theatre – I get a chance to be creative, to interact with a wide variety of people, to make friends, to have fun and to challenge myself.  And there is the immediate reaction to your work in theatre – you know if the audience likes it right away,  unlike film or editorial work where sometimes you never see the final result.  GPLT has given me the opportunity to really utilize my training and skills – from historical period plays requiring powdered wigs like The Miser and She Stoops to Conquer, to designing all the costumes for Charlotte’s Web and working with my mom to create them all, to making Macbeth’s and Dracula’s decapitated heads, to creating the characters from the Jungle Book and, my favourite so far… CATS!

I am looking forward to this season too – I’m booked for Les Miserables, The House at Pooh Corner and Cards on the Table.

I am truly honoured and pleased to be included with the past recipients of the award.  Thank you Grande Prairie Live Theatre for the years of fun and friendship and I’ll be staying around for many more years!






But… but… it is still officially summer for another 12 days…

What I woke up to this morning… and it is still falling…

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Update:  This is what it looks like in daylight…

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Time flies when you’re having fun

What have I been up to lately?  Well.. it has been a busy summer.  Lots of festivals, make-up for photo shoots and building a dinosaur and doing a body painting for the Amber Ball… and meeting Dan Aykroyd…

Dan Ackroyd

…you know, just stuff.

I built my Pachyrhinosaurus out of fun foam, sponges, a bed sheet and Elmer’s Glue – I actually took a week off work from the day-job to do it.





I did a couple of all night marathons to get it finished… I was so tired one night I knocked my pail of diluted Elmer’s glue onto one of my chair seats, the floor, the walls, the carpet… well, at least it was the same chair I got blue latex on when I was making Macbeth’s head.  And it’s not like we use them for eating on or anything.

On the day of the Amber Ball (which is for the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum) I also did a body painting of a Velociraptor on Candi (who is one of mom’s part-time aides.)


Both the Dinosaurs were posing for photos and roaming around the Ball.  There were over 1000 people there and it was very formal – black tie with medals. We got to watch/hear The Tenors perform (amazing!) and Dan Aykroyd performed too, amongst others.  There were a lot of dignitaries there, including Dr. Phil Currie who the Museum is named after – here we are with him!

Maj Photography (49 of 220)

There was a photo booth set-up in the corner and hundreds of people came over to get photos, most with one or the other Dinosaur, or both.  Sometime the Dino Hunters were included too!

Amber Ball 2014 C-6

I had painted the museum logo on Candi’s back so in a lot of photos it is just her back.

(You can view all the photos taken at the photo booth if you like – there are some gorgeous gowns, etc!  http://majphotography.shootproof.com/curriemuseum)

And, I will explain my butterfly net… we roamed in pairs, a dino hunter with each dino for protection basically.  I roamed with Candi who had the Velociraptor on her front.  I would say to people “be vewy vewy quiet… I’m hunting velociwaptors”  and attempt to “catch” the raptor with my net.  Got a few laughs.

On the home front, we had to get a new roof.  The shingles on the roof had “baked” and curled, receding from the edge of the roof exposing the wood.  These shingles were no more than 10-11 years old as the previous owner had put them on and she only owned the place for about 18 months, and we bought it 9 years ago.   The roofer, who we have had do work here before, said he has never seen a roof go bad so fast.  Anyhow, they replaced all the shingles with new laminated fibreglass ones and it looks all nice and pretty.  When we bought this house it was the best looking and most updated on the block … but everyone around us has been updating since we moved in.  So we were looking pretty rough.  But now, it all looks nice again!  The house is 53 years old this year.  I think we’ve spent more on it in the 9 years we’ve had it than we paid for it.  We love it, and it is a really nice house.

We also hired a new full-time aide for mom in mid-July who is working out excellently.  Thank goodness.

I am entering the Wearable Art Show again this with a two-piece/two model entry.  The show is on Saturday, September 27th this year.  Lots of work still to do – I see another marathon session in basement coming…


Now I know it is summer

We’ve had a warm spell and the flowers are doing well.

First let me introduce you to my oldest Prairie Mallow – seeded by itself from the neighbour’s yard to the west when she was trying to eradicate them from her yard!  They self-seed aggressively and we have them popping up all over.  I’m encouraging them to spread in my west flower bed as it is very dry and takes a lot of effort to get annuals to do well.  These plants have massive taproots and are pretty self-sufficient.


Here are close-ups of the flowers… I think they are quite similar to hibiscus – five petals, prominent stamen…


DSC09523It will continue to bloom all summer!

And my clematis and petunia planter.  The clematis have just started to bloom. They will continue all summer as well.  I really want to get a big arch trellis to put over those stairs – we don’t use that door at all.



And here is my mom’s lily.  My uncle brought her a single lily in a pot when she came home from the hospital in Spring 2010.  I planted it outside right away as we are allergic.  This first photo is the plant in 2011.


And this is what we have right now!!



I plan to split up the bulbs and spread them out a bit more to fill up that corner.  Oh and just for reference this is the same spot in the winter…  You can see the piece of driftwood peeking out.

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Some Dinosaurs from Canada Day

I painted a small group that were going to be riding on the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum‘s float in the Canada Day Parade on Tuesday morning.

In preparation I had printed off some examples for them to have a look at.  One of the kids had brought along a large dinosaur book, just in case I didn’t know dinosaurs.  We did end up using one of the book illustrations to base the Velociraptor design on.

DinoCollage (605x800)

The Museum is currently under construction and I think it will be open for December.  They are holding a Grand Opening on August 9th with an Amber Ball with lots of celebrities and performers, a mass motorcycle ride out to the museum led by Dan Ackroyd and family, and other events.

I will be doing a body painting for the Ball with multiple models which should be fun!



What we did on our summer vacation

Sorry I’ve not posted in June so far… it has been a very busy month, and mom and I took a week to drive down to Calgary to see Cher with Cyndi Lauper, shop and be tourists and just got back today.

As I can’t drive longer than approximately four hours without my eyes starting to close, we broke the trip into two days of driving both ways.  We stopped in Edson to visit my uncle on the way down, stayed at the Holiday Inn Express (they had a roll-in shower in the wheelchair room!)  We then drove to Calgary the next day down Alberta Highway 22 – it is a shorter route in kilometers but about a half-hour longer due to slower speeds on the roads… it was a very nice drive.

Here is the road ahead of us somewhere between Drayton Valley and Rocky Mountain House


And this is later on…


And… still later…


As part of the reason for taking Hwy 22 was to avoid traffic… I think it was a successful choice!

And this next one shows the Rocky Mountains off in the distance.  The smudges are dead bugs on the windshield.  Speaking of which… YUCK!


This is my “art shot” – once we got through Rocky Mountain House we eventually turned east on Hwy 587 with the Rockies behind us:

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It was a really gorgeous day for a close to  five-hour drive.  We saw maybe three deer the whole trip and lots of hawks/falcons.

The older I get the fewer photos I take… I even forget to take the camera sometimes.  I almost didn’t take it this time.

We spent all morning on Tuesday at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary and the camera was in mom’s bag on the back of her wheelchair but I never took it out. And there were some very cool things there!

We spent most of Wednesday relaxing (we both had some tummy problems) and then went to see Cher with Cyndi Lauper at the Saddledome which was excellent.

Right next to the hotel was a Toyota/Scion dealer and they had these two cars in the lot…

Spider-Car, Spider-Car, does whatever a Spider-Car can…

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And na na na na na na na na na na …

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If I had to choose…. Spider-Car!!

The weather in Calgary kept changing… we watched the hail beat down on the RAV4 from our hotel room window.

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On the plus side… it washed off all the bugs, moths, butterflies and various other things that dove into it as we drove.

We drove to Edmonton on Friday – I do not enjoy driving on the QE II Hwy,  too much traffic and it is a boring drive.  We got into Edmonton way too early for checking into the hotel so hit West Edmonton Mall – got a few things at T&T Supermarket, roamed around, bought a couple of things.  Went to check in and the room wasn’t ready so they gave us a discount on the rate which was cool.

We decided to check out this morning.  I had booked the hotel for two nights but we had no reason to stay as we did the MAC shopping in Calgary at Chinook Centre.  I had been planning to do it at West Edmonton Mall before I realized there was a MAC Store at Chinook.  And we picked up the stuff at T&T yesterday.

On the way out on the Yellowhead Hwy we hit the most awful rainstorm.  There was a gorgeous complete double rainbow arching right over the highway and as we drove towards it the heavens opened up and it was practically zero visibility… but again, the silver lining – it washed off  the bugs!

But I have way more bugs to clean off of the RAV now… [sigh]

It was a nice trip. All three hotels were great – very clean and nice staff.  We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Edson and Edmonton and the Best Western in Calgary.



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Shannon Fennell

Shannon Fennell

International Award Winnning Make-Up Artist, Face & Body Painter

I am a professional make-up artist with credits in film, television, theatre and editorial.  My face painting book YOUR FACE OR MINE was published in 2007 by Snazaroo USA Inc. is widely available worldwide and I offer a multitude of make-up related services and retail instructional products for face painters.

Some of my awards include 2005 International Face Painter of the Year, 2006 Winner of Fantasy Worldwide Face Painting Contest in Putte, Belgium, Second Place at the 2007 US Body Painting Festival, as well as over 50 other awards and prizes. 

I love creative projects and can do everything from wedding make-up to custom SFX appliances, large scale international sporting events to individual appointments at Halloween, birthday parties to trade shows.  No job too big or too small.


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