Healing Hugs from Johnny Depp?!

photoNot one, not two, but 3 hugs from Johnny Depp! So, here’s how it went down. I was interviewing Johnny regarding his sci-fi thriller Transcendence. The movie looks at the good, the bad, and the pure evil of what happens when artificial intelligence takes over. It’s a concept most commonly known as Singularity….when computers outsmart human beings. The movie includes lots of sick people getting a 2nd chance through the advancement of technology. But what happens when that technology is taken too far is the focus of Transcendence. Clearly, I’ve had my own health battles. I shared with Johnny on how torn I am regarding this topic because had it not been for technology I probably wouldn’t be alive. For those of you who don’t know. I had a fist size brain tumor removed a few months ago. My interview time with Johnny was SUPER short, perhaps 2 minutes or so. They stopped rolling the cameras during what I think was the most beautiful moment of Johnny I’ve ever seen. As I got up to leave the room, he chased me down. He gives me a hug and says, “I’m so glad you’re ok.” Then, another genuine hug. He stares deeply into my eyes and says, “I just wanted to tell you that I know what you’re feeling. My mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor recently….and she is also OK because of modern medicine. She takes a single pill a day and that makes her OK.” He embraces me again and says, “Take GOOD care of yourself.” At this moment, all of his handlers, who were just before yelling at me to get out of the room so the next interview can start…pause. I think we were all floored by his sensitivity. Despite his enormous fame, Johnny has kept his soul supple. If in the slim slim slim chance Johnny is reading this…THANK YOU for your healing hugs. I hope you can vicariously pass along my hugs to your mom.

Transcendence opens in theaters Friday, April 18th. To watch my interview with Johnny, click here!

Happy Campers!

                                           Truly Julie and her fiancé in Malibu.blogEngagementSome weddings, if not most, carry the tone of the left photo. Beachy, crisp, and well orchestrated. However, my man and I more like the photo on the right. We are not fancy, formal people…just two Midwestern kids in love and always ready for fun! That’s why our wedding theme will be Summer Camp! Think Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (how cute is that movie?!). We’ll have BBQ, S’mores, dancing under the stars, no high heels and! Lots of silliness and laughter. Because that’s more us. Though, thanks to one of the most talented photographers I know (www.JoshKaplanPhoto.net)…we got to fake it for one afternoon.

Road to Recovery and Back on the Road!

                    Truly Julie has never been so happy to be stuck in traffic!photo (69)TumorSideBySideA little more than 4 months ago, I lost half my vision. My tumor had grown so large and had been in my brain for so many years that it had become part of my vascular system. So when the talented UCSF surgeons scraped that sucker out, the tracks from my brain to my eyes were impacted. Some specialists said that my vision would never improve. Others said it would slightly improve but that it could take years. But this past photo (68)week, the unthinkable happened. A miracle. I gained enough of my field of vision to once again DRIVE. Yeah, if you saw a girl driving around town with a freakishly big smile, that was me! It’s funny. Before I got sick, I spent way too much time complaining about LA traffic and just how much I hate driving. Post surgery and incredibly dependent for rides…grocery shopping, haircuts, the gym, doctor appointments, and even getting to and from work, all of it seemed like a VIP pass I couldn’t access. I’m not sure why and how I was able to heal so well, but here’s what I do know. It is through struggle that we reveal what we are truly made of. You can’t always control your health, but you can control your mind. I tried my best to view my sickness as an opportunity to really test my will to live my best life. I got to see the compassionate side of so many friends and colleagues who were kind enough to lug me around:) And when no one was available, I took the bus. Life can be a bumpy road, but I’m convinced that you can steer it towards a better outlook. Here’s a clip of me sharing the good news with my Good Day LA family!

Oscars Confession: My Pain Meds Made Me Buy a Pucci!

    Truly Julie at the 86th Academy Awards! Fashion Front: Pucci gown, Lanvin shoesoscars1oscar1Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 1.45.40 PMProbably not the best idea to wear a tissue thin, cutout dress in the rain, but hey, it’s the Oscars! I usually borrow a dress to cover the awards (i.e. this Alberta Ferretti number!), but I just had to own this Pucci piece. I bought it 3 weeks after my brain tumor surgery. I hung it out in the open in my house as as motivator to get better in time for awards season. When making the big purchase I thought, ‘What the Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 1.45.02 PMheck, I LIVED. I should own something that makes me feel special.’ In hindsight I think that was my narcotic pain meds talking. The dress was NOT in my budget. So…we’re all going to pretend that you didn’t see me wearing this, because I intend to wear this over and over again to get my $$ worth. That is if it doesn’t rip or disintegrate. It’s so delicate! As to why the Oscars is the most glamourous/unglamorous event I cover, read here.

5 Reasons You Should Visit Korea!

Truly Julie jumping around with the “it” Kpop band, Crayon Pop!CrayonPop1) Kpop! If you’re a fan of Korean Pop music (aka Kpop), there are so many chances for you to see your favorite singer/band in-person. There are multiple talent shows where you can be a live audience member. And even if you aren’t a fan, the Kpop phenomenon is just wild to witness. I find it pretty remarkable that a country that’s the size if Indiana has managed to reach so many countries and people with its music. Anyone heard of Psy?!

fishmarket2) Fresh Seafood! The Noryangin Fish Market is like an aquarium you can eat:) It’s only about 30min from the center of Seoul by subway but the atmosphere feels like a world away. Here, you won’t see the cutting edge fashion types of Seoul, with their designer stilettos or perfectly pale moisturized skin. Instead, you’re greeted by ocean-weathered smiles in galoshes and thick (but charming!) country accentsScreen shot 2014-03-01 at 1.20.49 PM. And if you’re into super fresh seafood, this is your heaven. Think multiple football fields worth of fresh seafood, most of which is still alive! Korea is a peninsula so the catch-of-the-day rarely travels more than 2 hours to get to the market. Once you make your seafood purchase, you can take it to any of the multiple restaurants on site. They’ll prepare your fresh purchase any way you like and you can eat it right then and there. For the true adventurous eater, try the live Nakgi squid (pictured above on the right). Only way to kill it, is to chew it!

3) The Korean film scene! You could actually do this without ever leaving your house! For the last decade, Korea has been Screen shot 2014-03-01 at 12.37.12 PMexperiencing a film renaissance that tackles heavy, taboo topics with an unapologetic fervor. Anyone who saw the original Oldboy knows what I’m talking about! (Trivia: Spike Lee remade Chan-wook Park’s controversial Oldboy last year)  I met up with Director Kim Jee-Woon at a trendy cafe in Seoul this past summer and he credits the thriving film scene to 2 things.  First, the country’s economic and social progress. Second and more importantly, in the Korean film world the director is the top-of-the-food-chain and the one who calls all the shots, not the movie studios. And congrats to Kim Jee-woon for successfully “crossing over”. In addition to many of his Korean movie hits, he directed “The Last Stand” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Forest Whitaker last year. korea-food

4) Food, food and more food! There’s something magical that happens when practically everyone in the whole country is a foodie. I had the most zen eating experience at Sanchon Buddhist restaurant. Tucked away in the touristy antique district, Sanchon redefines vegetarian dining. So delicious! Plus, the ambiance and the presentation of the food are worth writing home about:)Screen shot 2014-03-01 at 1.27.58 PM5) Friends, Family and the Spectacular Seoul Skyline! Clearly for me, Korea is a very personal place to visit. I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 9 years old, so those who had a huge imprint on my childhood are still in my motherland. I’ve known these beautiful people above since I was 4! We were neighbors! During this reunion, we had amazing BBQ pork at a total dive joint and caught up on old times on their rooftop overlooking the skyline. Seoul…always feeds my soul:) 

A Venice Family Affair!

True friendship is when you walk into their house and your WiFi connects automatically. –Unknown (Internet, probably) This quote is so fitting given our beautiful engagement party was thrown at Grail, the soon-to-launch news app will make you better. Big ups to founder Ryan Magnussen for masterminding & for giving us an unforgettable toast:)
EngagementCoverThere’s your family…and then there’s your “chosen” family. Me and my fiance are incredibly lucky to have both. Thank you to our Venice family for surprising us with the most incredible engagement party. Leif and I have never felt that kind of collective love. I used to think planning a wedding was somewhat tedious and stressful but after this weekend, I get it. Something magical and powerful ignites…when so many people are rooting for your love all under one roof. From friends I’ve had since 5th grade…to friends I’ve sailed around the world with on Semester at Sea…to our college friends…to my Good Day LA peeps…and, of course, our Venice family, the night was a TIDAL WAVE of love, laughter, and a firm belief in our union. And the captain of the ship? One of my dearest friends, Leslie. To know Leslie is to love Leslie. In her sweet, Texas drawl…she tells us she’s throwing a casual get-together…only to practically give us a wedding! Mix in the other Venice angels…Raegan, Farrah, Jenni, Ryan and Josh…the night was everything. Funny enough…this same crew threw me a “Throw This Tumor In The Trash” party. Leif and I are so glad we could give them a better reason to celebrate:) They say marriage is tough…and that it may take a village. We found that village in Venice. In the words of Leslie…love y’all!Engagment-Party

“A Setback is a Setup for a Comeback” ― T.D. Jakes,

       Truly Julie returns to TV after, without sounding too dramatic, brain surgery!comebackI’m back! And really, who cares? It’s not like it was brain surgery. Well…actually….(insert sheepish smile)…it was. Thanks to my gracious Good Day LA family, I got to share my incredible journey. If you missed it or you’re one of the folks who has asked, “where have you been for the last two months?”…THIS is what happened. Why I feel like a telenovela star…why I don’t regret having a brain tumor…why I’ve lost half of my vision…why I cry even though I don’t like doing so on TV…it’s all here.

When Someone Loves You in Sickness and in Health…YOU KNOW!

                     Truly Julie with her…(holy cow, grownup word)…fiancé!

photo (54)I had the pleasure of catching up with the Good Day LA gang this week. It’s kinda surreal. For weeks my man and I researched the best brain tumor centers around the country. Now…we’re looking for the perfect wedding venue:) Life. It always keeps you guessing. Here’s me gushing about the best man I know. 

12 Days of Christmas Gratitudes Continued…

                               Truly Julie with a full head of hair at 3 months! photo (45)7) I’m grateful my brain tumor has brought my family closer together. We hit a rough patch after my dad passed. He was the glue. However, my health scare reminded us that it’s not worth arguing about things that don’t matter…with people that matter.

Screen shot 2013-12-25 at 4.21.39 PM8) I’m happy hair grows back. I know it sounds vain and silly…but it was hard having a third of it buzzed. You can’t see a tumor (excluding X-ray). But you can see long locks hitting the floor & you most certainly can hear the loud humming of a shaver. Plus…I’ve always joked that God didn’t give me height but he gave me a lot of hair. Look at my baby picture above…I was born with a full mop! So to lose some of that identity was unsettling. However, that discomfort was short lived. My hair is growing back fast…and luckily, the bald, patchy parts are in the back of my head so it’s easier to conceal. Again…very trivial thing to worry about given the scope of everything. Regardless, I’m thankful that I’m healthy enough to re-grow hair.

photo (46)9) I’m grateful I had the chance to work with Lighthouse International for the years I was in New York. For 5 years, I emceed its scholarship lunch where college students with vision loss accomplished the unthinkable. I’ll never forget the story of one scholarship recipient. She was blind since birth. At a young age, she became a single mom to a down syndrome child. Despite the challenges…she worked hard, excelled at school, and replaced the thought of “disability” with “this ability”.  Long story short, she got into a masters program at Yale. There…she married a man who respected and admired her for her differences…and had two more children. We honored her with a scholarship so she can continue her work on developing algorithms that benefit those with vision impairment. I also volunteered at the Lighthouse’s Saturday school…where children with vision loss learned how to cook, use computer programs, play instruments, make arts & crafts, etc. They focused on being handy…not “handicapped”. I share these experiences because I genuinely think the Lighthouse was put in my path to help me through this journey: one of the greatest risks of my surgery was the possibility of losing my vision. Last week…my vision test with my neuro-opthalmologist was a bit Screen shot 2013-12-25 at 5.28.26 PMdiscouraging. It’s been almost 5 weeks since my brain tumor surgery, and yet, my right field of vision is still impaired. This picture on the left is a diagram of both of my eyes. The black parts are where I can’t see. Will it get better? Maybe. Maybe not. That is out of my control. What is under my control is how I look at it. I’m grateful that I have any vision at all. I’m blessed that my left field of vision was unimpacted. I’m thankful to have met so many abled folks at the Lighthouse to know…that it’s more important to celebrate what you can do than it is to dwell on what you can’t do. Recognizing this analogy may sound trivial, but here’s how I look at it…you can complain that you have so much laundry to do. Or be thankful that you are in a well enough place to own clothes and to have access to clean water. My vision may be compromised…but I hope my spirit never falters.

10) I’m thankful for having health insurance. My brain surgery cost was equivalent to buying a 4-bedroom home. In the initial stages…it wasn’t clear if I’d be covered. At times…you have to have the procedure first, then file a claim…and only then will you find out what part of your procedure will be covered. So, in addition to the scare of having a clementine size tumor in my brain…I was also fearful of going bankrupt. Not to mention…so many of your choices – doctors, hospitals, prescriptions, pre-op/post-op care – are limited by your insurance plan. For the millions who face this dilemma…I empathize with you on a new level.

ChristmasDinner11) I’m appreciative for my appetite. I didn’t feel like eating a thing for the week I was in the hospital. And once I could eat…my jaw hurt too much to bite on anything good. I could only open it by a centimeter or so. Since the entry to my tumor was through the back of my head…they had me on my face for the 6 hour surgery. Between that and having a breathing tube wedged into my mouth…my jaw was stiff as a board for weeks. We as a society focus so much on NOT eating. Don’t forget…craving and enjoying food (with balance)  is a sign of health. So joyful that my appetite came back just in time for the holidays:) Above is my mom’s Korean New Year’s dumpling soup and cucumber kimchee. Mmmmmmm.

12) I’m beyond grateful for what lies ahead. Remember in my last blog post I talked about how you don’t have to see to have a vision? I can already tell that 2014 is going to be a lot brighter. When someone loves you at your worst…weakest…and without a sure answer of how you’ll be after a major brain operation… it provides clarity like you have 20/20 vision. Good bye, tumor. Hello, new year…new chapter. Yes