Category Archives: Judy Gruen

December 23 – My Little Chanukah Miracle

by Judy Gruen

I clicked the seat belt securely, then felt the gold chain slip off my neck. I felt sick. If the chain had come loose, my beautiful gold pendant might have fallen off earlier, while I had been Chanukah shopping in the mall, all 870,000 square feet of it. It would take a miracle to find it there.

Years earlier I had bought this little bauble, less than a half-inch in diameter, smitten by its shimmering shades of green, red and burgundy cloisonné, in a heart-within-a-heart motif. A tiny diamond set inside reflected the light and added to its understated elegance. I loved that pendant.

It had been an expensive impulse purchase, and I had always felt a little guilty for my splurge. But it had been a numbered limited edition by a gifted designer, his name engraved in gold on the back. I couldn’t resist. But after a few years, it disappeared. Eventually, I gave it up for lost.

Three years later, while reorganizing my dresser, my pendant winked at me from an island of bras and panties I had dumped on my bed. I was shocked. How had it landed there, and remained undiscovered for so long? I thanked God for returning it to me. I vowed to be more careful.

You can imagine the awful déjà vu I experienced at the mall. This time, my pendant would not magically reappear in a drawer back at home.
I tried to console myself: You enjoyed it for several years. Count your blessings.

And yet. . . it was nearly Chanukah, a holiday of miracles. In the Chanukah story, something very small and valuable; a cruse of pure oil — did show up in a totally unexpected way. Why not at least try? I reported it missing to the management office, and then, my eyes alert and my head to the ground, I began to retrace my steps, floor after floor, store after store. My hopes sank as I returned to the Hallmark shop, my last stop. I scanned the carpet along the aisles. Nothing.

But across from the cash register where I had waited in line to pay, an itty-bitty diamond flashed at me from underneath a display of holiday mugs. I was rooted to the spot, thunderstruck. I swooped down and grabbed it tightly. In the mall management office, the woman who had recorded its loss and my information was as stunned as I was.

I was awed and grateful for this second unexpected reunion with my heart pendant but wondered aloud to my family what else it could mean. My niece Ali said, “I would never have gone back into the mall to look. I would have been sure it was gone. But you looked for it and you found it. I think that’s the lesson. Don’t give up, even when the odds seem against you.”

“There’s another lesson,” my husband said. “This Chanukah, I’m buying you a better chain.”

Judy Gruen is an essayist and author whose most recent book is “The Skeptic and the Rabbi: Falling in Love with Faith. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune,, and many other media outlets. She is also a writing coach, editor, and speaker. Judy writes regularly at Judy’s Mirth & Meaning Blog.

February 7 – Shaken to My Foundations During A Set of Wall Push-Ups

by Judy Gruen

The other day at the gym, the teacher sent us to the wall for a set of standing push-ups.

“Place your hands on the wall at breast level,” she instructed.

I placed my hands on the wall at breast level. I saw that my hands were headed for the Gulf of Mexico.

“How did this happen?” I asked, sorrow catching in my throat.

“You know what they say,” said my neighbor. “After 40, it’ all maintenance.”

I gritted my teeth and performed three grueling sets of push-ups, determined to show that my strength and agility were not sliding nearly as fast as some of the rest of me. I did not cheat, exactly. I leveled the playing field, so to speak, by sliding my hands north on the wall closer to California, where the rest of my body lives. This made the push-ups much easier to complete. Besides, the true pain of the exercise was realizing that I was desperately overdue for some deferred maintenance.

Back home, I fished out a catalog of women’s sports clothing that sold bras for every possible shape and fitness need. Sure enough, I found a model designed by a researcher in New Zealand who had a doctorate in Newtonian physics. The bra was called “Stand and Deliver”. I paid extra to have it shipped to me overnight.

When I looked at myself in the mirror wearing my new suspension rigging, I was amazed at what a little retrofitting could do for me. Had I only known how much I would benefit from a close study of Newtonian physics and its application to my ability to perform wall push-ups, I would have paid more attention in high school science.

My new bra was not the sexiest-looking underwire garment to have ever left the shores of Macau. It had an uncanny resemblance to building scaffolding, but at least I was not a “problem fit”who would require the services of one of the nation’s leading bra-sizing consultants. (This was not the case for my friend Gerry, who once admitted to me after a few glasses of wine that she had been measured for a new bra with a carpenter’s level.)

Stage 1 of my deferred maintenance program had striking results.

“Something’s different about you, I can tell,” my neighbor said while I was in my new cups. “Wait, don’t tell me: did you have Botox?”

While it is still a painful experience to walk past Victoria’s Secret, that bastion of female objectification and purveyor of false expectations, at least now I do so holding my head (and my mammaries) a little higher. Victoria’s starving models may look better in a push-up bra than I do, but those scrawny arms of theirs will be their undoing in a contest with me for wall push-ups.

(This post is adapted from a piece originally published in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.)

Judy Gruen’s newest book is “The Skeptic and the Rabbi: Falling in Love with Faith,” (September 2017, She Writes Press). She is the author of four previous books and has written for the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and many other media outlets. Find her online at