Hats Off to Volunteers

The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers.  ~Everett Mámor

Labor Day. What a concept. Lucky for me, few of my jobs have felt much like work.(Creative Department motto: We play for a living.) One Labor Day, ever unable to resist the adorably clever, I did give birth to a child. Happy Birthday, Dear Boy.

This is the first in a series of Monday morning blogs on the theme of appreciation. I think we’ll call it Hat’s Off to… Today being Labor Day, I’d like to kick it off with a hats off to volunteers in general.

As a child, whenever I groused about having to collect for the March of Dimes or wondered why crates of Girl Scout Cookies lived in our hall, my mother the Sunday School Teacher would counter with a passage from the gospel of St. Luke, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him much is required.” A sense of noblesse oblige took root. I was nearly grown before I realized that we were not the Carnegies, in fact, not all that much, at least in the form of liquid assets, had been given us. By the time I had my own children, I had had a reverse epiphany, realizing that, I have in fact been given a great deal; for one thing, a husband whose work ethic allowed me to stay home. Enter the early warning signs of V.D., (Volunteer’s Disorder), a spastic condition in which one’s arm shoots into the air following no apparent signal from the brain.

Since the early onset of VD, I’ve, knocked on doors, driven around town with a giant papier mache octopus on the roof of my car, taken night school Spanish, baked thousands of cookies, and addressed angry mobs of deadly soccer parents, and once, made an evening dress for a 15 foot Barbie Doll. In December, when most people are putting the finishing touches on the tree or deciding which Christmas sweater to wear, I work Nutcracker, quick changing sweaty, high strung ballerinas, wrangling rats and angels, even driving the dreaded Swan Boat. (note: The Swan Boat handles worse than a sedan with an octopus on the roof.)

Not that I’m patting myself on the back here. Truth be told, my giving has on more than one occasion been of the white elephant variety. For instance, once I accidentally embezzled a sports booster fund. For some reason, my cakes were never the first to go at the bake sale. As anyone in the snow scene will tell you, with Mrs. Yon at the helm, the swan boat crippled more dancers that shin splints. It doesn’t matter how much chaos I caused, I received much. Forget the people you might help by volunteering, that’s a cliche. Here are the real reasons to answer the call.

1) The people you meet.
Working bingo is like having served in the trenches, regardless of their backgrounds or political differences, comrads in arms form unique bonds. Were it not for volunteer projects, I’d never have found myself sharing a beer with a genuine rocket scientist and The Empress of the Short Row Heel, a back slid Mormon with an acid tongue. Entertaining Tip: If your address book contains both Drag Queens and Drag Racers, your dinner parties will become the stuff of legends.

2) The skills you acquire.
Do you know how to install herringbone bracing? I do. I learned on the job when I was 12. Teach yourself to drive a stick shift in a church van full of pre-teens jacked on Koolaid, no question about it, you’ll be able to handle anything life throws at you. Furthermore, volunteers quickly learn “to make do”. I’ll bet McGyver got his start chairing a poorly funded fund raising committee.

3) The other stuff you won’t have to do.
I admit it, I hate to Christmas shop and wouldn’t be caught dead in a Christmas sweater. There isn’t enough egg nog in the world to make me look forward to hosting an open house. For 12 years, the Nutcracker has given me something precious, that is, a water tight excuse to be a seasonal slacker, a Grinch among Tiny Tims. Volunteering allows me guilt free access to things I’d rather be doing. I’d rather get out the vote than clean out the refrigerator; stuffing envelopes is, to me, far more stimulating than stuffing a turkey.

Here’s the main reason to volunteer: In busy, demanding lives, giving of oneself is so extravagant. When your inbox is overflowing and your kitchen floor is sticky there’s nothing more luxurious than derailing on a volunteer project. Go “plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit”. Whatever the motivation, Hats off to the volunteers, cogs in calling trees, food chains, dunking booths, and car pools–those who recognize that they have been given much.

Speaking of volunteers, I could use some help with this blog. I’d like your input on people, companies, products, ideas to recognize in the Hat’s Off blog. If any of you worthy readers run across something worth mentioning, from a great shade of nail polish to a person or organization which should be commended, let me know. You may reach us by way of the comment box below or by emailing me directly at jan@hatsandveils.net. I thank you in advance, you may now put down your hands.

There really was a 15 foot Barbie.
There really was a 15 foot Barbie.

by Jan Masters Yon

Derby Tip of the Week

Turnout matters.

To me, a visit to the paddock is worth fighting the crowds, for, in addition to supporting to my persistent (though erroneous) belief that I’m a good judge of horseflesh, I derive pleasure from admiring the grooms’ art. Beautifully conditioned, impeccably turned out thoroughbreds simply radiate breeding and care.

I’m conviced that, with a regime of customized nutrition, daily exercise and the tender ministrations of professional grooms, I too would dazzle . Well, it’s too late to do much about the nutrition and exercise but here are are few grooming tips that will help you sparkle on Derby Day.

Use moisturizer and/or foundation with sunblock. A bright red nose might be attributed to Mint Juleps. ( Juleps bear responsibility for enough shenanigans as it is.) Remember, any sunblock you carry into Churchill Downs must be in a plastic container.

Before Derby Day, apply the cosmetics you plan to use, put on your hat, and step outside with a mirror. Hat color will definitely effect the tone of your complexion. Large areas of color near the face reflect onto and tint the face. Color interaction is also a factor. Do you remember the color wheels we made in middle school art class? When predicting how one hue will affect another, think complements. The complement to purple is yellow, thus a lavender hat will make your face look more sallow. A green hat will bring out warm tones in the skin. Sunlight filtering through the brim of a hat is another factor in how we preceive color. Rose tones is a perfect example. Pink hats do wonderful, age defying things to a woman’s complexion. I still don’t know which color dress I’ll wear to Derby, but I can tell you this, my hat will be pink. Check out your make up with the hat, you may find that some adjustments, a warmer or cooler foundation, more or less blush, may be in order.

As mentioned above, step out in the sunlight with your mirror. Yes, I know this can be painful for a woman of a certain age, I recommended it all the same. We’re all hoping Derby Day will be sunny and clear. However the kind of day that brings us a fast track also has unforgiving lighting. Strong natural light calls for the sheerest foundation possible. If you need more coverage, make sure the finish is well blended, flawless. I’m younger than Dracula yet still at an age where I’d rather avoid mirrors and sunlight altogether, however, I do want to see the make-up, flaws and all, before anyone else does. Be brave, move toward the light.

By the same token, work with your hair and your hat before the morning of the Derby. Experiment with pinning bangs out of the way, straightening or curling the hair that shows beneath your hat. This is a good place to mention that, while the label sewn inside your hat band indicates what the milliner considers to be the back of the hat, don’t be a slave to labels, experiment, often the hat will look better rotated. Anyway, what do milliners know? By the time Derby rolls around,they’re all mad as hatters anyway.

In the realms of thoroughbred racing and ballet, two of my favorite worlds, turnout matters.

by Jan Masters Yon

Derby Tip of the Week

Condsider the footing

As any horseman knows, 90% of lameness originates in the foot. For this reason we tend to treat our farriers as visiting royalty . We treat our horses to custom shoes, expertly fitted to the beast and the terrain. Unfortuately, few of us can afford custom footwear for ourselves. Personally, I find myself between hell and highwater or rather hell and high heels when shoe shopping. I love strappy, sexy high heels and what they do for my legs. I hate the discomfort and what they do for my personality. If my feet aren’t happy, I’m no fun to be with. Here’s the compromise that works for me and this week’s Derby Tip. Ballroom Dancing Shoes.

During a period often referred to as “a misspent youth” one of my chief activities was competitive ballroom dancing. It was at Roseland that I discovered the comfort and stability of ball room dancing shoes. They’re designed to make the most of your legs and are engineered to provide the best possible base for fast changes of direction, multiple turns and sassy tango stamps. I think it’s the undercut heel but they really are an asset when spending a day on your feet. They come in a variety of styles and colors and, if you order them early enough, (see Derby Tip 1) can be dyed to any color.

Here are a few websites of companies that carry ball room gear. You may find more or better sites by googling “ball room dance shoes” or “tango shoes”.


Derby Day is a long day. While one never chooses to sacrifice fashion, comfortable footwear can be crucial to the all over enjoyment of the event. You need shoes that will enable you to hike to your seat, make flying lead changes on a dash to the betting window, turn on a dime when a hunch strikes and allow you to move like a Samba dancer on fire when your horse starts to move up; and, if it’s a really good day at the Derby, sensible footwear can be there for you when it’s time to dance the night away.

by Jan Masters Yon