Tears at the top of the stairs

The day I walked into Maybrook for the showing I knew it was the one. Not the house I’d always wanted, but the one I needed at that moment. The one that would get me to my son the fastest. The one that would occupy my mind and my time. The one that I could afford on my own.  I sat at the top of the stairs to feel the house to be sure. It was a confusing time, my mind was jumbled, and I was making a choice that would change my family forever. That spot at the top of the stairs seemed to be the energetic anchor of the house. I could feel it.  

I vividly remember moving day, after all the commotion of movers and people, I sat. Alone. At the top of the stairs. Broken. Physically exhausted. Emotionally spent. This was day one. The hardest day of my life. 

This is what I wanted and yet, I was crushed. Each day I would go to work and when I got home, I would sit at the top of the stairs and cry. Uncontrollable, ugly crying. I’ve never been a crier so this level of crying was not okay! 

At some point when I was a kid, I decided no one could make me cry. I learned I could control it. So I’d never experienced that depth of sadness or allowed that level of emotion to take over. It was terrifying. I think I cried for seven straight days. 

I decided this was a transition house. I would only be here for 2 years, while my son finished high school and moved between my house and our family home which was just a few miles away. I need not get attached to it. Oddly, I described it as my transition house when I talked about it.

When the housing market crashed in 2008, the neighborhood was hit hard by foreclosures and my notion of a two year stay disappeared quickly. Okay, okay, I’ll stay 2 more years but that’s it. 

In the meantime, I was putting myself back together, keeping my focus on my family healing and learning how to newly be together apart. And I was returning to the person I was born to be. At almost 40, it was the first house I’d bought on my own and the first time I’d lived alone for more than 6 months. 

I could move the furniture when I wanted. I could paint a wall orange or a room red. I could rearrange the dishes in the cabinets. I could fold the towels inconsistently. I could stack the dishwasher inefficiently. I didn’t have to make the bed. No one to please but me. God, I was lonely. And…I was, for the first time in my life, learning how to live with myself, how to find comfort in my own company, how to just…BE.

Years passed, and the relationship I thought would have to be a secret forever became too big to hold down. She moved in one drawer at a time. And together, we built a life together, with our families and children, that neither of us imagined could ever be possible. Seriously, our being together, out in the world, was never.going.to.happen.  

Today almost to the day, nine years after that first move-in day, I walked out of Maybrook for the last time with my soon-to-be wife. As I thanked the house for holding my amazing journey, I realized how many transitions had happened here. Not just mine. 

Despite my efforts to stay disconnected from it, the transition house became, “The House That Built Me.” 

As fate would have it, the buyer of the house is recently separated and trying to rebuild a new life for his little girl, who’s just a bit younger than my son when I moved there. Perfect.

So today the tears flowed again as I sat in that go-to spot at the top of the stairs. I left it better than I found it and it left me better than I was when I arrived.

Kicking cancer’s tail: The Superfood Dog Diet

So many people have asked me how my 12-year old dog, Emmy, is whipping cancer. She’s  transformed over the last four weeks. Here’s how we’re doing it.

Processed with MOLDIV

After a kidney cancer diagnosis, and a less than one year survival prognosis — if we removed the kidney and followed with chemo — we decided to fight it with science and nutrition. The goal, no suffering, and good, happy days for as long as possible. So far, we’re winning.

At diagnosis (4/12/16), Emmy had periodic vomiting, very little appetite, and lethargy. She was losing weight, was disengaged and mostly wanted to be alone, which is very unusual for my girl. I knew she didn’t feel good. Was she leaving? My first goal was to see if I could get her eating again.

The day after diagnosis I changed her diet from Simple Formula Wellness dog food (which I believe to be a high quality food) to an all human diet plus a superfood supplement. We started with scrambled eggs cooked in a tiny bit of coconut oil. She went for it.

My friend and animal healer, Nancy Seymour, inventor of the superfood supplement I’m using, is using her years of nutrition experience and guiding me every step of the way.


“We just want her infused with clean, healthy, easily digested food to not tax kidneys.  My supplement will boost her immune system. We can build on that.” – Nancy

We started with foods that fight inflammation and are high in anti-oxidents: sweet potatoes, blueberries, pumpkin, coconut oil. I blend them in the Vitamix so they’re super easy for her to eat and digest. Each day we added new foods: Greek yogurt, butternut squash, green beans. Smaller meals, more often. Each meal, I add the Shining Star Pets supplement (dosage by weight).


What’s in it?  My well dog, Lola, also loves it!

“It’s all chemistry and nutrition fueling her immune system. Appetite and poop are important to us. We tweak… She eats.” – Nancy

Her appetite immediately improved, but she was losing weight, down to 52 pounds. So we increased the carbs. I alternate oatmeal and brown rice at meals, always sweet potatoes, plus a small amount of protein. A snack can be cottage cheese mixed with canned pumpkin. Peanut butter on mashed banana. I make greek yogurt blueberry pops as a superfood treat. We limit the protein to no more than 20% of her diet so we don’t tax the kidneys. Anything that isn’t processed (meaning — you can see it in her poop!), I put in the blender. Easier to eat, easier for her body to digest. Every nutrient of the food is used by her system.

To be clear, this isn’t a table scraps diet. It’s a low salt, good oils (coconut and olive), good fats, good carbs and a controlled amount of protein. It took me about a week to get the hang of it.

Our results so far: She’s jumping up and down when it’s time to eat. She rolls around in the backyard. We walk 2-3 times a day.

That doesn’t look like a dog that’s dying to me. The cancer is still there, but she isn’t suffering. She’s happy, engaged and making the most of every day.


It makes me think, if we can transform a dog with cancer in just a few weeks using whole foods and nutritional supplementation, shouldn’t we be considering that option for people in the same predicament?

Have you ever tried a whole foods diet with your dog? Would love to hear about it.

Golden Retriever kicking cancer’s tail

I knew. She’s been my girl since she was 12 weeks old. She’s survived it twice. I could see it in her eyes and feel it in her presence. I knew the darkness was back.


Tubular adenocarcinoma of the kidney.


At 12 years old, my Emmydog has already outlived the statistics. Beating mast cell cancer two times. Losing her spleen. Battling arthritis like a prizefighter. The thought of putting her through radical surgery to remove the kidney and tumor was gut wrenching. The alternative…unthinkable.

Tears. A LOT of tears.

Was she in too much pain already? She’s not eating much at all and is pulling away into the backyard and away from her people. This.can.not.be.happening.

My dear friend Nancy Seymour quickly devised a nutrition plan to see if we could get Emmy eating again.  We took her off dog food and put her on a vegetarian whole food diet and the superfood supplement Nancy invented. (Seriously, read Nancy’s story here!)

BAM. In a day, she’s eating again! And in ten days… THIS!

Processed with MOLDIV

Processed with MOLDIV

She’s like a different dog. She’s jumping up and down at feeding time. She’s running some in the backyard. Playing with her toys. Happy.

That’s all I want for her. As many happy moments as possible.

We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, remember ShiningStarPets.com.  It’s a revolutionary product and it’s going to take the world by storm. And my Emmy will be part of its legacy.



How the crazy #NBCtoWRAL peacock idea came to life…

It all started in my boss’ office when he told me WRAL was dropping CBS to become an NBC affiliate. Wait..what? I admit, I needed a minute. I mean, we’re the #1 CBS affiliate in the top 25 markets. We’re doing what?  He explained why we were dropping CBS and choosing a new partner, NBC. Then, inspiration struck!


I had an immediate vision of a promo campaign. An impossible idea that was never, ever going to be produced, but I couldn’t tell my team because they had no idea what was about to happen.

Fast forward about 4 days, the news was out and the race to launch a new network in 45 days was on. Job #1, THE SUPER BOWL in 14 days.

I mean this a network affiliation change. The biggest promotional challenge in 30 years for WRAL, and we get to announce our new partnership with NBC in Super Bowl 50 on CBS! Why not go for the craziest thing you can think of?

In a brainstorm with the WRAL Creative team. I pitched the crazy, impossible idea with “All it takes is a live, trained peacock. How hard could that be?” The room erupted in laughter and then Promotion Manager Jay Yovanovich said, “Give me a day to find one!” I love a team that’s unstoppable. And this team is incredible.

WRAL Creative Team Screening Campaign

Literally, 24 hours later Jay had found the only live, imprinted peacock in the United States. Where? North Carolina, of course.Enter serendipity. Turns out, the Sylvan Heights Bird Park had the idea 6 months ago to imprint this baby peacock because “some NBC station somewhere might want to use it one day.” Seriously.

Now, we need a voice actor with a British accent who can pull off one of the creative ideas we have. Who answers the phone at the bird park? The director, who happens to have the exact voice we want and he has done voice over work! This is beginning to feel a lot like destiny.


Not only did we have a live, trained peacock. It could be brought to the WRAL Newsroom for the shoot. Ok, that opens things up! The creative team got to work. We wrote, rewrote, brainstormed, laughed our heads off, and wrote some more. In about 24 hours, we had taken a singular idea and made something bigger and better as a team!

(L to R) WRAL Promotion Manager Jay Yovanovich, Social Media Manager Wendy Gatlin, CBC Corporate Producer Anita Normanly, Freelance Producer/Director John Roberts, Creative Director Shelly Leslie

Let’s back up and talk strategy.  What’s the mission? The audience is confused by what an affiliation change is. Even my Mother called and asked me how I felt about leaving WRAL after 28 years! (No, Mom, I’m not moving.) So, yes, we need to be creative but we must also be clear.

3 Goals for the Launch

Create a buzz. We produced a 6-spot teaser campaign to get the idea going that there’s something very unusual happening in the WRAL Newsroom. These spots launched on social and web 3 days before the Super Bowl, pushing people to the game.

Be remembered. It’s very difficult for a local station to stand out in a sea of bazillion dollar ad agency commercials in the Super Bowl. And, frankly, humor is hard to do. But I thought we had a concept that would absolutely deliver on our 3 goals, and I thought it would be memorable.

Kill confusion. Answer viewer questions in a simple and sticky way. We produced an arsenal of these as we saw common questions emerge.

The ID campaign, scheduled with high frequency, reinforces our key messages.

A 17-spot campaign produced in about seven days, once we knew we had the peacock! Ever heard the saying “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Well, the WRAL Creative Team was absolutely incredible on this. It truly was the most fun I’ve ever had at work.

It should be noted that in the midst of all that, we had a 3 day blackout on DIRECTV, an ice storm, and our “local” team, the Carolina Panthers, made it to the Super Bowl! Honestly, it was the most insane 2 weeks of my nearly 30 year career in television. But hey, I’d be bored if I worked at the bank.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the campaign and whether we fulfilled our mission.

Now, in 16 days, WRAL becomes an NBC affiliate and there are about 148 other items on our punch list. Gotta go.


Behind-the-scenes promo shoot: Who Is WRAL?

A :60 brand image promo conceptualized, written, blocked, shot and edited in 14 hours by a four person team at WRAL Creative.

After 27 years at WRAL, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh, NC, I bleed PMS 279 blue. I grew up watching this station in the Charlie Gaddy era. I know its soul and am now part of its DNA. This spot started with a document I wrote to help our team understand our brand voice, why we do what we do, the way we do it, and the values that guide our decisions. The WRAL Creative team took that document and adapted it for the screen.

We used the cinematography in “Birdman,” the Oscar-winning Best Picture as inspiration. Now, let me just say this. What Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki did in that film is ridiculously difficult. We didn’t do what they did. We didn’t have $18 million dollars or a movie crew. We had four people, a steadicam and one long day to pull it off. Shooting a constantly moving promo this way is a challenge. Shot location, blocking, lighting, timing, how one movement works into the next shot to tell a story – it’s all critical.

Writing: 3 hours
Blocking: 2 hours
Shooting: 5 hours
Editing: 4 hours

It’s worth noting, a promo like this only works if your news anchors are authentically connected, real people who truly live the words they’re speaking. WRAL News anchors Debra Morgan and David Crabtree have a combined 40+ years as the faces of our brand. They are truly, selfless servants. What you see is what you get, every single day.  It’s a delight and a privilege to channel their heart and souls onto the screen.

We are, WRAL.

“You can’t fake caring about people. Eventually, that will show. Plus, how exhausting would that be?!” Debra Morgan


Co-writer, Steadicam, Post-production Justin Arner

Co-director & Lighting Jay Yovanovich

Lighting, Grip, Talent Entertainment Steve Elizondo

Co-writer, Co-director, Audio Shelly Leslie