Thursday, August 30, 2012

Is there a community of scholars?

Last night, Builder and I went to the wedding of one of Rabbi Brooklyn's kids.  We met up after the chuppah to see where we would be seated.  Builder, of course, chose that moment to mention to mention to me that one of his friends from the shul is the executive director of Modox Girls' Elementary, and that we could get the Things in without a problem.  (Now, where have I heard that before?)
This friend and his wife immediately started in on the Things' "socialization."  This is, of course, the best way to piss a homeschooler off.  My response, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't a majority of the time in school spent sitting in class, not socializing?" 
"Well, there's recess, and there's lunch, and then, there's the exchange of ideas in class.  I mean, kids can hear about different perspectives."
OK, that was a fun little delusion.  Now back to Planet Reality.
Except for my graduate seminars, I have never experienced this exchange of ideas.  Most of the time, class was spent listening to the teacher.  Occasionally someone would ask a question, but it was more because they couldn't understand than because they wanted to go into depth.  I get more of an exchange of ideas discussing The Eskimo Twins or Winnie-the-Pooh with Thing 1 than I ever got in school.  Usually, all the class discussions were between the teacher and one student (me) while everyone else passed notes, doodled, counted the acoustic tiles in the ceiling, or waited for class to finish.
But it wasn't all bad.  I did get to deliver my famous "why call it homeschooling when we're never home?" line.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

To workbook or not to workbook

My friend N. also homeschools her kids.  One day, at a play date in a Prospect Park playground, I got to look inside her homeschool backpack.  It was stuffed to the gills with workbooks for every subject--math, handwriting, phonics, spelling, geography, vocabulary--and this was all for a six-year-old.  I started questioning whether I could legally homeschool in this state.  A part of me was thinking, "Hey, you're making me look bad!  With you as the role model, my rather vague IHIP doesn't have a prayer of being considered in compliance!"  (FYI, I submitted my IHIP at the beginning of the month--and it WAS in compliance!  Woohoo!  We're legal!)
Now, when I saw all those workbooks, I thought about what  we were doing.  Thing 1 and I were only using them for two subjects--math and handwriting.  And, by that point, both the math and the handwriting workbooks were long finished.  I had also gone through some Kumon materials--but that was to develop motor skills in things like cutting and pasting.  Skills my then-four-year-old completely lacked.  For reading, we read a McGuffey Primer and some folktales written in simple language.  For writing, she copied.
Now, this year, we have to be more official.  However, I'm really only using workbooks for Chumash, dikduk, and Hebrew script.  Math and handwriting are both done in marble composition books.  For phonics, we're back with Reb McGuffey.  Reading practice is done with folktales and simple readers out of the library.  History and geography are mostly done through stories, with a timeline book and blackline maps printed off the Internet.  Science is learned through stories and observation.  And, yes, we've already used the dissection kit once.
And then I realized something.
As free-form as I am, there are certain subjects I have no confidence teaching--mainly because of my own ignorance.  These subjects happen to be heavily skewed towards textual analysis in Hebrew.  I can find non-workbook resources for general Jewish knowledge and parsha.  I can certainly find ways of teaching basic phonics and math that don't involve workbooks.  Handwriting workbooks are useful, both only to a point.  Once kids have mastered letter formation, just let them write!  But when it comes to Hebrew language skills, I am lost. 
And that's where the workbooks come in.  They lend structure to teaching a subject I can't handle.
Admittedly, because of all the Hebrew books, I'm at least a step ahead of Thing 1.  I can now translate a few prefixes.  I know what some of the roots mean.  And, hopefully, by the end of this year, I'll know enough to help her navigate a Chumash.  And, if not, then I guess we're back in the workbooks.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Politics in action, or women can vote too

I once read a book about women's history in which it stated that it was a common belief that ovulation was caused by orgasm.  Therefore, if a woman got pregnant and claimed that the child was a product of rape, her pregnancy could be used AGAINST her.  After all, she must have enjoyed it, or she would not have conceived.
Plus ca change...
Representative Todd Akin is still in the race for Missouri State Senator.  And his remarks on "women can't get pregnant from a legitimate rape" have left half the population legitimately incensed.  Uh, Todd?  Just a little reminder?  The Nineteenth Amendment, you know, the one that gives every adult with two X chromosomes the right to vote your sorry a** out of office, has been the law for the past 92 years.  And that little soundbite of yours will be all over state television, the Internet and social media from now until November.  As for your GOP cronies, they LIKE their jobs.  They would rather not alienate half (that's right HALF) their constituents by supporting you in this.  And those who do will also find themselves on the receiving end of the collective wrath of the women of this country.  A wrath which, in a civilized society, we express with votes.
See you in November!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Shani--Chapter 5

Shani couldn't forget what the woman with the scarf had said.  "I was always told that the Torah makes us better people.  I'm not so sure anymore...."  Of course the Torah makes us better people, Shani thought.  The woman was just over-wrought.  A girl being pelted with rocks, even a pritzua, would have that effect.  And, sure, maybe as an outsider, some of this separation might look a bit bizarre.  But after all, women must be kept in their place so that the men can focus on their learning.  Still...Shani remembered a time when there were no women's hours.  Or at least she thought she could.
That night, after the kids were in bed, Shani sat down with her husband Yaacov.  Although the pressures of raising six children (keinehora) had driven Yaacov from kollel and forced him to earn a living, he still made time every night to go over the parsha and the Daf.  Once Yaacov returned from Maariv, Shani was confident that he'd be able to answer her questions. 
Shani relayed the events of the last two days.  Yaacov looked at her thoughtfully.  He knew about some of the "modesty squads" that patrolled Thirteenth Avenue, but, like many people, was appalled by the violence.  As Shani finished her story, Yaacov thought about how to answer her.
"Shani, you and I both know that hilchos tznius exist to enhance the kedusha of our community.  Look what happens in other areas.  Women dress with everything hanging out, like they don't respect their bodies.  And then they wonder why they get attacked and raped.  Same thing with this girl.  Maybe if she had been more careful..."  Yaacov trailed off.
"Are you saying that those boys should have attacked her?"  Shani had never known Yaacov to advocate violence.
"No, of course not.  Chas v'shalom!  I'm just saying that we have to be so careful.  There are men who must preserve their learning.  After their Torah learning protects the whole world.  If it were to cease for even a moment, the world itself might stop."
"But what about the boys?"  Shani asked.
"Those boys are just thugs.  Look at them.  They were out on the street in the middle of the day because they have nowhere to go.  The yeshiva's don't want them.  Most of them can't get a job.  So they make themselves important by throwing rocks."
"But why can't the rabbis do anything?"
Yaacov chortled cynically.  "Which ones?  You know Boro Park.  Besides all the Chassidishe rebbes, there's the Agudah, the Young Israel...the list goes on.  So many voices.  About the only thing they agree on is 'kol kevuda bas melech p'nima.' "
Shani had heard the quote from Tehillim repeated frequently since her days in playgroup.  It meant "The glory of a princess is inside."
Yaacov continued.  "No one wants to think that his wife or daughter could be attacked.  But we must preserve the kedusha of our community.  That's why we demand the utmost in tznius."
Shani reflected on the conversation she had earlier that day.  "But doesn't it say in 'Eishes Chayil' that 'her clothing shall be of fine linen and purple'?" 
Yaacov smiled at his wife indulgently.  "That's just a metaphor for a woman's status as a bas melech--a daughter of a king.  Just like a princess wears special clothing that befits her royal status, so to does a daughter of Israel wear refined clothing that does not draw attention to herself.  Refined clothing is not flashy with bright colors.  It's subdued."
Shani nodded.  You certainly can't get more subdued that black, grey, beige and white, she thought. 
"Is there anything else?" Yaacov asked.
"In the Torah, did Yaacov kiss Rachel?" Shani asked.
Yaacov pulled a Chumash Bereshis out of the seforim cabinet.  He opened to Parshas Vayeitzei, flipped a few pages, and handed the sefer to Shani.  "See for yourself."
Shani read the Hebrew, and found the passage that described the meeting between Yaacov and Rachel.  "Why did he kiss her?  I didn't think that was allowed."
Yaacov turned in shock.  "He did?"
"Yes, it says so right here."  And Shani read the Hebrew.
"I'll have to ask Rabbi Tannenbaum."
Shani rose from the couch.  "Coming to bed?" Yaacov asked.
"In a minute," Shani answered.  "I just want to read some more."
Yaacov nodded.  "Don't be up too late.  Kids have school in the morning."
Shani closed the sefer and followed her husband upstairs.

In which we begin sewing lessons

One of the items on my curriculum for Thing 1 is some basic sewing lessons.  First it's using McGuffey's and Ray's for reading and math, now it's sewing lessons with the possibility of a sampler.  I'm definitely obsessed with the 19th century!
Queen Mom and I start with a trip to the only Jo-Ann Fabrics in the five boroughs--the one on Staten Island.  Yes, Manhattan has better fabric stores, but the materials cost about an arm and a leg.  Thing 1 needed a sewing kit.  The only pieces I couldn't find were inexpensive thread nippers and a bobbin that worked more like a needle.  I also stocked her up on Aida cloth so that she could learn the stitches.
Last week, Thing 1 and AriSparkles had their first lesson in stitching.  To continue in my theme of all things old-fashioned, our sewing lessons came straight out of the Mary Frances Sewing Book.  I have two copies--a reprint from Lacis that has the original language and patterns, and the 100th Anniversary edition that resized the patterns for American Girl dolls.  Unfortunately, it also resized the language for modern-day stupidity.  So, we're using the original book, and I'll take the patterns from the new book when we get there.  The first two stitches taught were even and uneven basting.  The book suggested using Aida cloth so that the stitches come out nice, straight and even.  Thing 1 actually could make the stitches on her own, but we hit a snarl when I discovered that my sweet little daughter cannot tie an overhand knot.  This, of course, is the first step to sewing anything.  So, this week, we're going to work on that.  Since she can tie her shoes, it can't be that much more difficult.
Of course, I'm making the stitches along with my little sewing class.  This helps because then, my students have a working model.  I'm also planning to create all the garments in the sewing book.  I did them once, but because I had to re-grade the patterns on my own, most of them don't fit right.  (It should be noted here that I am the proud owner of three American Girl dolls.  Since Rebecca is from around the time the books were written, she was the beneficiary of this new wardrobe.)  Once the garments from both the sewing book AND the crocheting book are finished, I will post my creations.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Seeking consistency

After my father died, I started frequenting the SDSU campus Hillel.  My regular shul was about a half-hour away, and I didn't have a car.  Hey, I didn't even have my license!
One night, I found myself sitting next to a man with the most beautiful voice since Frank Sinatra (it should be noted here that I have a voice fetish.  Builder actually has a decent set of pipes, which he shows off every Shabbos singing zemiros.)  E was single, into theater--OK, he was a professional mime--and, as I found out within about two minutes of getting him to ask me out, Messianic.  Or as I like to call it, "Christianity in a tallis."  Since he was about as committed to his religion as I was to mine (I actually bothered to show up every week), it didn't work out.  But beign with him got me thinking.
Once, at the San Diego JCC's annual Yom Ha'Atzmaut carnival, I was looking aaround and noticed a strange phenomenon.  Various shuls had set up tables.  Every stripe was represented, from Orthodox (various Chabads, Beth Jacob, and a few in La Jolla that were too far away to visit) all the way to San Diego's Reconstructionist and Renewal temples.  There was even a table for the Humanist temple--talk about a contradiction in terms!  (Humanism is basically Judaism minus G-d--in other words, what's the point?)  As for the Messianic community, they had no table set up.  Oh, they were there, all right--mostly picking fights with the Jews for Judaism guys.  And I wondered, "you can be a Buddhist, an atheist, an agnostic, hey, even a pagan, and still call yourself Jewish.  But you can't be a Christian Jew.  Somehow that doesn't work."
Now, don't get me wrong.  I once went with E to his I-hesitate-to-call-it-a-synagogue church, and the only thing differentiating it from a tent revival was the more-than-occasional yarmulke.  So I had no illusions.  However, I still needed a more consistent answer to my question about who was accepted and who wasn't.  The only position that made sense was Orthodoxy.  Basically, they're ALL illegitimate.  And, since I would stop off for mincha every day after work as I got older, I was kind of halfway there anyway.
I think I am the only person who had missionary activity backfire like that.  E tried so hard to sell me on Messianic.  I even beat his I-hesitate-to-call-him-a-rabbi minister in a debate, point for point, Scripture for Scripture.  And, after all that, I end up Orthodox.  Probably the only person who became Orthodox BECAUSE of a Christian missionary.  In fact, had I never met E, I'd probably be complacently Conservative today.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Remind me again--which religion am I supposed to be practicing?

I believe it was Judaism, but I'm not sure.  Because the Judaism I practice should not have supernatural elements.
A story circulating on the Yeshiva World News website (HT: DovBear)seriously makes me wonder.  Tefillin has possul word in it, and man keeps losing his sons?  Come again?
Now, if I were a practicing Wiccan, this story would make sense as a talisman gone awry.  However, I'm not.  In fact Judaism specifically forbids performing magic spells.  By extension, we should not put faith in a ritual item (such as tefillin) to act as some sort of talisman.  The tefillin are a physical reminder to think about and do G-d's work, as is laid out in the Shema.  That's why they are bound on the head and arm.  The head is the seat of thought, and the arm is symbolic of action.  By attributing every misfortune in our lives to a chipped letter in the tefillin, we are taking this mitzvah and perverting it beyond recognition.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Shani--Chapter 4

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3
The next day, Shani boarded the bus with Moishie and his folded stroller in tow.  As she made her way to the back, she noticed one empty seat.  She hauled Moishie and his stroller to the back and sat down.  Suddenly, she heard a voice next to her.  "Hi."
Shani looked at the woman next to her, trying to place her.  Then she remembered the day before.  Sure enough, it was the woman with the brightly-colored scarf who had helped the girl.  Today, the scarf was a leopard-print, which seemed to match the woman's savage mood.  Shani settled Moshie and her purse on her lap, then turned to say a quick, non-committal "hi" in response.
"Can I ask you a question?"  the woman asked.
"Ask." Shani responded.
"Why didn't anyone help the girl yesterday?  It's been on my mind.  That poor girl was so scared, and hurt, and she got spit upon."
"You helped her," Shani pointed out.
"Yes, and I stayed with her in the emergency room until her mother could take her home.  She had five stitches in her head from where the rock hit.  The girl was so upset, she called Second Chances on my phone.  She wants to leave the community."
"I guess it goes to show you.  The girl is unstable and obviously not committed to Yiddishkeit."
"Really."  The woman pursed her lips.  "Would it surprise you to learn that she's an excellent student?  Or that she spends her Sundays with the Bikur Cholim?  Or that she's committed the entire Sefer Tehillim to memory?  But of course a yellow shirt and lack of opaque stockings means the girl was dirt under everyone's feet, right?"
Shani shifted her purse to the floor and looked away uncomfortably.  Moishie squirmed in her lap, but Shani didn't want him to run around in a moving bus.
The woman continued.  "I never expected this.  I was taught that the Torah makes you a better person.  But it seems like we care more about what we eat and how we dress than how we treat others.  The first time I heard a frum person use profanity or ethnic slurs, I was in shock.  Now it just appalls me.  Makes me wonder why I chose this."  Shani stared at her.  "Yes, I am a BT."
"Oh."  Shani responded. 
"My sister wonders what I was thinking.  Even I wonder what I was thinking.  She told me to bail after..." The woman loosened her scarf.  An ugly scar snaked across her throat.  "One of the sikrikim threw a piece of glass at me when I was on the street fifteen minutes after women's hours.  It's stupid.  There's nothing in our texts that says we have wear black tents and hide from men."
"Now, wait a minute," Shani interjected.  "It says in Bereshis that Sarah Imeinu was in the tent.  She was a truly tzniusdik woman who stayed indoors where she belonged."
"Oh.  I get it."  the woman responded.  "One of our Imahos stays in her tent during a heatwave--which is what most people would do--and now we all have to hide away.  I didn't know the Torah was made of rubber.  it almost needs to be to stretch that far.  Besides, didn't both Rivka and Rachel go to wells?  And when Rachel was there, didn't she get a kiss from Yaakov?" 
"No she didn't!" Shani snapped.
"Look it up if you don't believe me.  And as for the black, didn't Shlomo HaMelech say in Mishlei that the eishes chayil makes scarlet clothes for her household, and that her own clothes were of fine linen and purple?"
Shani couldn't think of a response.  Of course she had heard "Eishes Chayil" every Shabbos of her life, but had seldom thought about what the words meant.  Shani decided to look in her husband's seforim when she got home.
The woman pulled the cord, and the bus stopped.  "You know," she said as she squeezed past Shani, "I was always taught that the Torah makes us better people.  After yesterday, I'm not sure I believe that anymore."  And she was gone.
To be continued...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

In which we learn how badly Mitt Romney wants the presidency...

...turns out, not very badly at all.
He tapped Paul Ryan as his running mate.  The same Paul Ryan who wanted to dismantle Medicare.  OK, so this generation of seniors is safe--for now.  That means Queen Mom and Builder, both over 55 (and I won't say by how much) can collect their Medicare when they turn 65.  But what about everyone under 55?  As in me and practically everyone I know? 
Let's face it.  Private health insurance is not the easiest thing to get even under the best of circumstances.And seniors, facing both a lack of funds and serious health problems, are decidedly not in the best of circumstances.  Builder, for instance, has had five hernia surgeries, a tracheal stenosis, and a torn meniscus.  All of which would get him kicked off most private insurance plans as "pre-existing conditions." 
Sure, Obamacare has made it illegal for health insurers to kick people off for pre-existing conditions.  But how long will that last?
Of course, targeting Medicare is capital-S STUPID.  See, the older people are, the more likely they are to show up on Election Day.  AARP, who opposes any limitations on Medicare, will be running Ryan's little plan on TV from now until November.  And too many people got burned by that lovely little law known as Medicare Part-D, where you had to get your own prescription drug coverage.  Between private plan corruption, cut-off dates, and "donut holes," a whole lot of seniors were confused.  Try to privatize Medicare, and all you'll get is a lot of pissed-off baby boomers.
And then there are the swing voters.  Remember the McCain-Palin ticket?  McCain was a serious contender, the sort of Republican that was liberal enough to capture swing voters.  Then he chose Sarah Palin.  Within a few weeks, the swing voters shifted to Obama, and the McCain campaign became something of a joke.  Suddenly, McCain was a loose cannon who might not live out his term, leaving the country ruled by Madam "I can see Russia from my house."
Of course, Romney was in trouble already.  His ties to Bain Corporation, a company that laid off a ton of people, don't sit too well with many voters in a down market.  Neither do his offshore accounts.  I won't mention Sen. Reid's questions about Romney's tax returns, since I put them in the same category as the "birther" fuss four years ago.
Congratulations, Mr. President Obama.  Four more years!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A successful first week in "mommy school."

Well, on Friday, we finished up our first week.  Thing 1 can identify all her numbers up to 100, read lessons 26-30 in her McGuffey Reader, and started maps of the eastern US with the city of Boston (we read about John Winthrop) and a map of the Middle East showing Ur and Haran (we also started reading about the life of Avraham).  She also learned five Hebrew prefixes and did a chapter in her Hebrew language textbook.  She filled in the names of the continents on a blackline map of the world and drew a narration from Old Mother West Wind.  We also did a pencil drawing, learned how to thread a needle, drew a sparrow for nature study, and mastered two simple songs for the piano.  Meanwhile Thing 2 is mastering the aleph-bet and matching lowercase and uppercase letters (I love free file folder games).  She also built Mat Man with her "wood" pieces, drew flowers that looked more like lollipops, and practiced writing the number 1. 
Builder has been monitoring our progress, and is happy that the girls are learning.  However, he wishes that we were more like the mainstream.  However, Sarah Schenirer was so far outside the mainstream that when she came into a town to establish a Bais Yaakov, people would throw rocks at her.  I think it all goes back to what's more important--conforming, or doing what's right.  And, judging by the title of this blog, it's easy to see where my priorities lie.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The G-d of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob--and Python

I'm an Orthodox Jew.  That means I believe in G-d.  The G-d that gave us the Torah at Sinai.  The G-d that inspired Abraham and then put him through hell in the name of testing his faith (I have to send away one kid and then kill another?  Okay.).  The G-d who decided that Jacob's best trait was truth, given how many little falsehoods got him ahead (besides the birthright for a bowl of lentil soup thing, there was also impersonating his brother to get his blind father's blessing, and then showing spotted rods to the mating goats so that their kids would be spotted.).  The G-d who let Miriam die right outside of Israel for--what reason, exactly?  Wasn't she already punished for speaking against her brother?  You know, getting tzaraas?  Did G-d just want to trigger the whole "waters of Meriba" test?  And then there was the G-d who put the completely off-limits Tree of Knowledge right smack in the middle of Gan Eden, and then created a serpent to test Adam and Eve into taking a bite.  Like we couldn't have called the ending on that one.
Because I'm an Orthodox Jew, I believe all of this.  Why?  Because I like to think G-d just has a very odd sense of humor.
How else can you explain all of the events in the Tanach?

Monday, August 6, 2012

First day back at (home)school

After many years of battles and case pleading, we've come to a milestone event--the first day of legal, your-kid-is-old-enough-for-state-oversight homeschooling.
Once the Things were presentable, we started with breakfast with our newest composer, Debussy.  "Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun" is a beautiful piece of music not to be missed.  After breakfast, we davened, with only the occasional interruption from Thing 1 about "we didn't say that in camp."  Amazing how I send my kids to an Orthodox Jewish camp, yet they daven more at home.  Then we went down to the classroom (actually, a basement playroom/guestroom with a blackboard, table and chairs, bookcases, and spaces for the Things to store their supplies.) 
Math: Thing 1 reviews number writing, while Thing 2 traces the number 1
Reading: Thing 1 reads a McGuffey's lesson (yes, my head is in another century), while Thing 2 works in a Kumon tracing book (and I find out that her motor skills are excellent)
Copywork for Thing 1.  Thing 2 gets acquainted with Handwriting Without Tears pieces
Thing 2 plays a file folder game while Thing 1 reads Hebrew and translates
Thing 1 learns to write the letter "resh" in script while Thing 2 and I review the letter "aleph"
Thing 1 finishes up with a dikduk exercise (matching prefixes to their meaning) while I read to Thing 2.
With Thing 2 finished, I then read to Thing 1.  Today, we read the first chapter of the Eskimo Twins.  Thing 1 is fascinated by the four-month-long days and nights above the Arctic Circle.  I show her Alaska on the globe, and give a demonstration of the reasons for said long days and nights.  Then, we read about the first governor of Boston, John Winthrop.  I enter his information on the timeline, and Thing 1 finds and labels Boston on a blank map of the eastern US.  We finish the morning with a start on our year-long project, a "Sefer Ha-Mitzvos" that I downloaded from  This was just coloring in the cover and drawing a self-portrait, then pasting the pages into a notebook I bought for this purpose.  Believe it or not, this entire burst of educational activity took about ninety minutes.
After lunch, we went to the park for a park day meetup with other homeschool families.  The Things got to run around and "socialize."  Fringe benefit--so did Mommy!  When we got home, it was time for tea, poetry, art study, some singing, and Thing 1's piano practice. 
All in all, the kind of day that makes me want to keep my kids home until college.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Siyum HaShas--one small step for achdus... giant leap backwards for any illusion of the frum world respecting women.
Builder bought tickets for me, the Things, and Queen Mom.  We get to Metlife Stadium after passing through some major security theater (complete with bomb-sniffing dogs), and go to our gates.  Yes, gates.  While Builder entered through the main gate, we lowly females were shunted off to the side gates.  Then we went up our separate escalators (yes, they had separate escalators for men and women) all the way up to the top.  All the women had to go up to the top, top.  And there was STILL a mechitza!  Fortunately, once mincha was over, the mechitza curtain was pulled back so we could see everything on the Jumbo-Tron.
Most of the speakers discussed the miracle of the event.  How Daf Yomi started out as an idea thrown out at an Agudah convention by a junior member in the twenties.  How the first Siyum in Lublin had only a few thousand people in attendance.  How we were almost completely destroyed by the Holocaust.  How Daf Yomi grew to prominence after the war.  And now, 89 years later, how there were celebrations all over the world.  How there were 90,000 Jews at MetLife Stadium--and that was just the New York siyum.    And Jews of all stripes too!  Every kind, from Chassidish, to Yeshivish, to Modern Orthodox, and even over 5,000 baalei teshuvah!  Every type of Jew was represented!  Sort of.  No mention, of course, to the Conservative, Reform, or secular populations who may have found daily Talmud study intriguing enough to dip into the Daf. 
Meanwhile, the Things were getting restless, and Queen Mom was wavering between boredom and resentment.  (The event started at 7:30, and ended at about 1:00 am).  As the Siyum continued, speakers like and Rabbi Yissochar Frand and Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau encouraged further study and review.  And, of course, when the Daf was finished, everyone on the floor got up and danced!  Also, there was a presentation of all the children (read: boys) who were also beginning to learn the Daf.  And, of course, some waxing rhapsodic about the role of women in all of this.  For after all, we must receive our nod.  From up in the balcony, we heard all about our importance in encouraging our men, in staying home with the kids, in pushing our husbands out the door at 5:00 am so that they could learn the Daf.  But what of our learning?  Or is Builder the odd exception in that he actually goes over the Daf with his wife?
After Chazzan Helfgott's rendition of Kel Malei Rachamim, it was time to head out ahead of the crowd.  Builder joined us at the car about 45 minutes later.  When he found out where we were sitting, he was incensed.  (Builder was one of the fortunate souls on the floor.)  He was furious that he had a good seat, while our tickets cost the same and were so far away.
Will I be there in 2020?  I don't know.  There will have to be some changes made.