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Celebrating Women’s History Month

Hey! It’s Women’s History Month. And seeing as we are a Women’s Business Enterprise, certified by the WBENC, we thought it would be cool to ask a few of our Smarties to share their thoughts on women of historic significance that have been inspirational for them.

Amber Rowher, Creative Account Manager at smartdept. says, “The first person that comes to mind is Dolly Parton. Aside from being an incredible artist who has found success across several music genres, she has always challenged societal norms of being a woman. To this day, she continues to speak out and support LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter. I think it is because of women like her that others today are given more opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

What? Are you not familiar with Dolly Rebecca Parton? Well, here’s a bit more. Dolly is an American singer-songwriter, actress, philanthropist, and businesswoman known primarily for her decades-long career in country music. Dolly’s career has spanned over fifty years; Parton has been described as a “country music legend” and has sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

Okay, she’s got talent. But did you know that she also co-owns The Dollywood Company, which manages the Dollywood theme park, the Splash Country water park, and a variety of dinner theatre venues? Additionally, she has founded several charitable and philanthropic organizations, including the Dollywood Foundation, which manages several projects to bring education and poverty relief to East Tennessee, where she grew up.

Honestly, Dolly is excellent! Her philanthropic efforts are too many even to list. But here is something worthy of attention. In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Parton donated $1 million towards research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and encouraged those who can afford it to make similar donations. What would Dolly do (WWDD)? Now you know!

Rob Leinheiser, Creative Account Manager at smartdept. says, “As a theater lover, Aphra Behn is a trailblazer with a special place in my heart. Her plays are rich and epic, in the same style as Shakespeare and her Restoration contemporaries. Her greatest work, The Rover, is still widely performed today.”

Aphra Behn was born on December 14th, 1640. Yup! I had to bust out Peabody’s Way Back Machine for this one. But Aphra Behn’s contributions are substantial! And think of all the travel miles I accumulated during my research. An English playwright, poet, prose writer, and translator from the Restoration era, Aphra was one of the first English women to earn a living from her writing. As a result, she broke cultural barriers and served as a literary role model for later generations of women authors.

Aphra was one bad 17th Century lady, and her rise from obscurity caught the attention of Charles II, who employed her as a spy. Upon her return to London, she began writing for the stage. She ran with a coterie of poets and famous libertines and wrote under the pseudonym Astrea. Following her death, new female dramatists acknowledged Behn as a vital predecessor who opened public space for women writers. In 1915, a six-volume collection of her work was republished, and since the 1970s, Behn’s literary works have been praised by feminist critics and writers. As a result, Behn was rediscovered as a significant female writer.

She is remembered in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: “All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn… for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds… Behn proved that money could be made by writing at the sacrifice of certain agreeable qualities. By degrees, writing became not merely a sign of folly and a distracted mind but was of practical importance.

She died on April 16th, 1689, and was buried in the East Cloister of Westminster Abbey (hands down Joey Tibbiani’s favorite Abbey).

Sarah Zachary, Creative Account Manager at smartdept. says, “I think of RBG. She was insanely successful in her career, serving as a trailblazer in the US Supreme Court. She spent most, if not her entire, career advocating for gender equality and women’s rights and has been inspiring to so many women who want to make a difference in our country today.”

Yaazzz! Sarah knocks it out of the park with her choice of Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg. RBG was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until she died in 2020. Ginsburg was the first Jewish woman and the second woman to serve on the Court after Sandra Day O’Connor. President Bill Clinton nominated her for The Supreme Court to fill the seat vacated by retiring Justice Byron White.

Ginsburg spent much of her legal career advocating for gender equality and women’s rights, winning many arguments before the Supreme Court. She advocated as a volunteer attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union and was a member of its board of directors and one of its general counsel. I could break the internet listing how RBG has contributed to reshaping our society. She authored significant opinions or is credited with influencing colleagues on gender discrimination, abortion rights, search and seizure, international law, voting rights and affirmative action, and Native Americans.

As a result of her actions, RBG has received more than 30 honorary degrees (not too shabby) and has been recognized as an inductee in the National Women’s Hall of Fame, named one of the 100 most powerful women in 2009, and was named one of Time Magazines’ 100 most influential people in 2015.

Thanks for peaking at some women who have inspired us here at smartdept. We encourage you to celebrate Women’s History Month with us by taking a minute to think about women (other than your Mom) who have inspired you.

Dolly Parton photo by: Eva Rinaldi
Aphra Behn image from: Ann Longmore-Etheridge
Ruth Bader Ginsburg photo from LBJ Library

Finding Your Niche

While having a general skill set to draw on is substantial, finding your niche in any field is crucial to securing unique opportunities and growing your professional network. Being an expert in one discipline opens doors to opportunities you might not have considered. Creating a reputation for your specialized skill set will help other professionals recognize your talents by word of mouth. When thinking about your career path, it’s essential to keep in mind what you want to be known for. Are you a graphic designer with a well-rounded portfolio? That’s great! But hiring managers want candidates that are not only versatile but also specialized. There’s no doubt you have the skills to excel in that Presentation Designer job you just applied for – but how will you stack up against another designer who has found their niche in presentation design?

Here are some tips for finding your niche and refining your expertise over your career.

Focus on your strengths

Think about your professional experience so far – what have you excelled at? Are you a responsive and clear communicator? A leader with the insight needed to manage others. An organizational wizard who can wrangle an excel spreadsheet like no one else. Knowing what you’re good at is the first step to finding what you should be known for being good at. If you’re unsure, ask your co-workers or former supervisors to weigh in – sometimes, it’s hard to see where our strengths lie!

Just because you’re good at it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be challenging!

It can be easy to settle into our regular responsibilities, especially if we’re good at them. But clocking in and running through the motions daily will leave you in the dust. Innovations mean jobs are constantly changing and pushing you out of your comfort zone is essential to ensure you are staying competitive in your field. Take every opportunity to try something new; you might find a new skill you possessed all along. Use these opportunities to keep learning and growing, and soon enough, you will be taking on challenges others wouldn’t know where to begin with.

It’s never too late for a change

Maybe what you’ve been doing so far doesn’t light that fire in you anymore- that’s okay! We are constantly changing as humans, and sometimes we need an external change to keep up with our development. It’s never too late to try something new, and with many online resources, it’s easier than ever to change specialties or fields. Try taking that UX course you saw an ad for, or maybe watch some videos on digital marketing trends. Don’t be afraid to explore your interests because your niche will reflect what you’re most passionate about. Once clients and employers see that passion, they’ll know they can trust you with their vision and feel confident that they are in the hands of an expert.

By Rob Leinheiser, smartdept. Talent Acquisition Specialist

Pronouns: More Than Just Grammar

International Pronouns Day takes place every year on the 3rd Wednesday of October. This year Pronouns Day is October 19th. International Pronouns Day takes place each year with a straightforward goal; to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace. That’s amazing because it’s one of our goals at smartdept., too. With that in mind, let’s look at what Pronouns are, why they are essential, and how we can use them in the workplace to create an inclusive and welcoming environment.

What is a Pronoun?

That’s a great question! Thanks for asking. Personal gender pronouns are those a person identifies with and would like to be called when their proper name is not used. The goal is for all people to decide how they want to be addressed. Some examples of commonly used Pronouns are:

  • she/her/hers
  • he/him/his
  • they/them/their
  • zi/zir/zirs/zirself
  • hi/hir/hirs/hirself

Being referred to by the wrong pronouns mainly affects transgender and gender-nonconforming people.

Why are they important?

Another great question! Referring to a person by the Pronoun of their choice is essential to human dignity. At smartdept., we use them because it allows us to see the whole picture of a person. Referring to people in our environment by the Pronoun of their choosing normalizes non-binary and transgender identities in the workplace and creates a safer environment for everyone. Additionally, it shows our commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace and allows us to respect our candidates, clients, and others.

How can we use them?

Ding, Ding, Ding! Five Stars! We should all consider including our Pronouns in our email signature and incorporate neutral language in greetings. If you are not sure how someone would like to be addressed, it’s okay. Just Ask. Try something appropriate like, “My pronouns are _______. Are you comfortable sharing your pronouns with me?” And if you make a mistake and someone corrects you, say “Thank you” instead of “I’m sorry.”

For ideas on how to participate in #pronounsday and for additional resources, please visit pronounsday.org.


By Haley Stowell, Sr. Creative Account Manager

Hispanic Heritage Month: Literature and Art

The smarty team continues to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with more influential views on Hispanic culture.

Creative Account Manager, Haley Stowell, enjoys the writing of Sandra Cisneros.  Known for work that experiments with literary forms which investigate emerging subject positions, Cisneros, herself, attributes her style to growing up in a context of cultural hybridity and economic inequality. Sandra is the only daughter in a family of six brothers which often made her feel isolated. Additionally, the constant migration of her family between Mexico and the United States made her feel as though she was always straddling two countries, while never really belonging to either culture. As a result, her work deals with the formation of Chicana identity, exploring the challenges of being caught between Mexican and Anglo-American cultures, facing the misogynist attitudes present in both these cultures, and experiencing poverty.

Cisneros has received numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the Ford Foundation Art of Change fellowship in 2017, and is regarded as a key figure in Chicano literature.

In Haley’s Words…

“I admire her bold prose which lends itself to exemplifying the stories of Latinx individuals that are truly felt and understood across cultures.”

Haley’s Pick…

Sandra Cisneros penned one of Haley’s favorite books. A coming-of-age story called The House on Mango Street. Check it out!

Read more about Sandra Cisneros here.


Eryn Briscoe, Talent Acquisition Specialist at smartdept., admires the work of Mexican Painter, Frida Kahlo. Frida is known for her many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. Born to a German father and a mestiza mother, Kahlo spent most of her childhood and adult life at La Casa Azul, her family home in Cayoacán. Inspired by the country’s popular culture, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society. Often mixing strong autobiographical elements and mixed realism with fantasy. Kahlo has been described as both a surrealist and a magical realist.

Kahlo is known for painting her experience with chronic pain. She contracted polio as a child and was injured in a bus accident at the age of 18, which caused her lifelong pain and medical problems. It was then she returned to her childhood interest in art.

In Eryn’s own words…

“I think I admire Frida because of her exclamation, I paint the flowers so they will not die. I love that philosophy! Seeing art as a way to own the unknownable, to protect the things and people you love against the cruelty of time. Also, the fact that she’s a woman of color in a patriarchal society, is very impactful.”

Eryn’s Pick…

Check out, Diego and I. In this painting, Frida’s great anguish over Diego Rivera is revealed after his affair with Maria Felix nearly resulted in their divorce.

Read more about Frida Kahlo here.


Credits: “Sandra Cisneros” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Photograph of Frida Kahlo’s 1949 oil painting Diego And I via Wikipedia. Header photo: crop of Emmy Star Brown painting.

Hispanic Heritage Month: Spotlight on Humanities

The smarty team continues to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with more influential views on Hispanic culture.

Creative Account Manager, Morgan Gorecki, would like you to take some time to learn about Sylvia Rivera. Born on July 2, 1951, this Latina trailblazer was a Venezuelan-Puerto Rican trans woman who pioneered LGBT activism, fighting for trans rights. Raised in New York City, Sylvia was abandoned by her birth father and became an orphan after her mother died by suicide. Living on the streets before her 11th birthday, Rivera was forced to work as a child prostitute before she was taken in by a local community of drag queens who gave her the name Sylvia. Together she and Marsha P Johnson (who allegedly was the first person who threw a brick in the Stonewall riots) created the “Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries” (STAR) organization that provided a home for trans people living on the streets in the 1970s in NY as well as offered organizers a space to discuss issues facing the transgender community in NY.

In Morgan’s Words…

I admire Sylvia on many levels. As time goes on, the trans community has become more and more accepted, and it is clear the work Sylvia had done in the past was the catalyst to this. She had paved the way for the LGBT community to walk; feeling much more normal than our past histories have depicted. In hindsight, Sylvia has saved so many LGBT lives with her efforts not only at the Stonewall riots, but her legacy lives on as the world continues to move in a more positive direction.

Morgan’s Pick…

Check out the book, The Stone Wall Reader, an anthology chronicling the tumultuous fight for LGBTQ rights in the 1960s and the activists who spearheaded it.

Read more about Sylvia Rivera here and here.


Rob Leinheiser, Talent Acquisition Specialist at smartdept., admires the work of Jacob Padrón. This Mexican American is the artistic director of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT. He is also the Artistic Director of The Sol Project and a co-founder of the Artists’ Anti-Racism Coalition. A graduate of Loyola Marymount University where he studied Theatre and Communications, Jacob also attended the Yale School of Drama studying Theatre Management.

Padrón was raised in Gilroy, California. During his youth, he attended a production of “La Virgen del Tepeyac” put on by El Teatro Campesino. He soon joined the company and was a member throughout his teenage years. After graduating college Jacob volunteered with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, providing support for those living with HIV/AIDS. Before his role at Long Warf Theatre, he worked as an associate producer for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a producer at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, and a producer for the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles. Padrón was named “one to watch” by American Theatre Magazine.

In Rob’s own words…

“I love the theatre scene in New Haven, where I live, and it has been made even better the last few years with Jacob Padrón’s artistic leadership at Long Wharf Theatre. Jacob is a talented producer who has dedicated his work to lift new and exciting voices, reckoning with the legacy of racism in American theatre, and fulfilling Long Wharf’s mission statement of creating theatre for everyone.”

Rob’s Pick…

If you’re local to New Haven (and even if you’re not, join or support the Long Wharf Theatre because “theatre is for everyone.”

Read more about Jacob Padrón here and here.


Credits: Sylvia Rivera with STAR banner by Roseleechs – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0; header photo: crop of Emmy Star Brown painting.

Hispanic Heritage Month: Spotlight on Arts and Culture

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, smartdept. has asked a few of its smarties to share whom it is that they admire from this richly talented and diverse community.

One of our founders, Michelle Pairitz, would like you to know about Judithe Hernández, an artist, educator, muralist, pastel artist, and painter. Judithe is a pioneer of the Chicano Art Movement and a former member of the art collective Los Four. She is based in Los Angeles, CA, and previously lived in Chicago, IL.

Judithe Hernández in 2010 via Wikipedia

Judithe first received acclaim in the 1970s for her mural work. Her artistic practice shifted over time and now is centered on works on paper, principally pastels, which frequently incorporate indigenous imagery and the social-political tension of gender roles.

In 1974, she became the fifth and only woman member of Los Four, the influential and celebrated East Los Angeles Chicano artist collective. Additionally, she was later part of the art collective, Centro de Arte Público. As early as 1970, Hernández was involved in the initial efforts of Chicano artists in East Los Angeles. During a time in which she was the only female at meetings who was not a girlfriend or wife but an active artist participant.

In Michelle’s Words…

“I identify with and admire Judithe Hernandez on many levels. I, too, am an Artist who similarly produces large works and expresses my point of view through my work. As a professional, I consider myself a trailblazer, like Judithe. Starting a niched staffing resource more than twenty years ago involved imagination, courage, and a multitude of risks. Still today, smartdept. is one of just a few creative, digital, and marketing-niched staffing resources certified as a women’s business enterprise.”

Michelle’s Pick…

Check out Summer, created by Judithe in 2013 as a portion of the Santa Monica Metro public art project transcultural depictions of sun-related mythology.

Learn more about Judithe Hernández here and here.


Melissa Imbrogno, Senior National Account Manager at smartdept. admires the work of actor, rapper, composer, playwright, and filmmaker Lin-Manuel Miranda. Known for creating the Broadway musicals Hamilton and In the Heights, and the soundtrack of Disney’s Encanto, his work has earned him three Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, two Laurence Olivier Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards, an Annie Award, a MacArthur Fellowship Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a Pulitzer Prize.

Miranda in March 2022, via Wikipedia

A graduate of Wesleyan University, Miranda made his Broadway debut in the 2008 musical In the Heights, starring, and writing the music and lyrics. A critical and commercial success, In the Heights, won Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Original Score, and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album, and was adapted into a film released in June 2021. Miranda is perhaps most recognized for writing the script, music, and lyrics for the pop culture phenomenon Hamilton in 2015. It earned the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was nominated for a record 16 Tony Awards, winning eleven.

In Melissa’s own words…

“Lin is an amazing writer and performer and has inspired a whole new demographic with his release of Hamilton. He took something that’s been the same way since the beginning of time and flipped it on its head. He is a minority, embraces his culture, and has inspired and taught so many.”

Melissa’s Pick…

Disney’s Encanto because the musical style is immediately recognizable and the impression it leaves on you is unforgettable.

Learn more about Lin-Manuel Miranda here and here.


Credits: Judithe Hernández in 2010 via Wikipedia; Miranda in March 2022, via Wikipedia; header photo: crop of Emmy Star Brown painting.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month…

For the first week of Hispanic Heritage month, smartdept. is highlighting the life and career of Hall of Famer and former Pittsburgh Pirate, Roberto Clemente.

Stick to what you know, right?

Clemente played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball, all with the Pirates. Among his player achievements are 15 All-Star games, 1966 NL MVP award, 4-time NL batting champion, 12 consecutive gold gloves, 3000 career hits, 2x World Series champion, and a World Series MVP.

Oh, yeah, and he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and 6 months after his untimely death Baseball waived its standard 5-year waiting period and inducted him into the Baseball Hall of Fame (1973). His induction made him the first Caribbean-born and Latin player to receive enshrinement.

But in my opinion, that’s not even what makes him special.

Roberto Clemente was a tireless humanitarian, spending his off-seasons focused on charitable causes. His efforts both on and off the field lead Major League Baseball to rename its Commissioners Award to The Roberto Clemente Award given to the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team.

So, it was no surprise that when Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, was affected by an earthquake on December 23, 1972, Clemente immediately went to work arranging emergency relief. But he learned that because of corrupt officials in the Somoza government, the aid packages that he set up were not being delivered. On New Year’s Eve 1972, he decided to accompany the relief flight, hoping that his presence would ensure the delivery of the much-needed aid to the survivors. The Douglas DC-7 cargo plane he chartered had a history of mechanical problems, an insufficient number of flight personnel, and was overloaded by 4,200 pounds when it crashed immediately after take-off into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Isla Verde Puerto Rico. There were no survivors.

If you investigated it, you would find endless examples of selfless acts performed by the late Roberto Clemente. One that sticks out for me happened on the day of his passing and was quite possibly the last selfless thing he did.

Tom Walker was a pitcher who pitch parts of six seasons in the big leagues and got to know Clemente while playing winter ball in Puerto Rico. He had just finished his rookie campaign when, on Dec. 31, 1972, he was among a handful of ballplayers helping to load the small plane in San Juan with food, clothing, and medical supplies.

Walker, who was single at the time, was to travel along on the ill-fated journey, but Clemente urged him and several others to stay back and celebrate the new year. Walker stayed, and he survived. And as only fate would have it, Walker was drawn to Clemente’s adopted hometown of Pittsburgh. Where he would raise his family and where his son, Neil on September 1, 2009, would make his Major League debut as a member of (you guessed it) the Pittsburgh Pirates. Neil Walker has been quoted, as saying “I literally owe my life to Roberto Clemente.”

Join us in celebrating Hispanic Heritage this month, and share who has inspired you.


By Eric Pairitz, smartdept. Principal


Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day

Jackie Robinson says to Branch Rickey, “You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back”? Rickey returns, “No. I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back.”

Before Martin Luther King Jr., there was Jackie Robinson. By being the first Black player to play in the Major Leagues and doing so without conflict, he was leading peaceful protests one game at a time, inspiring a nation, allowing an entire race of people to see what could be done, and giving them the courage to follow his lead.

April 15th is Jackie Robinson Day in the United States. And this April 15th marks the 75th anniversary of the day that Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in a Major League Baseball game. When in 1947, he took the field as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Though baseball was not the first sport to integrate (football did it one year earlier), Jackie’s ability to follow through on his promise to not “fight back” paved the way for countless athletes of African American descent to follow.

At smartdept., we take the time to recognize and celebrate Jackie Robinson Day. The first step in creating a culture that promotes diversity, equality, and inclusion involves education. Through conversation, we can begin to understand what is essential to an individual and an organization and develop strategies around solutions. As I reflect on past Jackie Robinson Days, I’m reminded of the time my oldest daughter excitedly came home from second grade to share with me that her class was studying a chapter on Negro League Baseball. Knowing she was named after Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux and that her dad was a baseball nut, Maddy knew I would be excited. She didn’t know that I have an extensive collection of Negro League memorabilia, including cards, jerseys, posters, autographs, videos, and more. And I love to share.

Like any good salesperson would do, I identified my target, got the contact information for Second Grade Teacher, Mrs. Marsh, and made my pitch (pun intended) to come to share my knowledge and treasures with her second-grade classroom. Okay, I admit it’s not a tough sell! Pretty much, anyone who calls any grade-school teacher and offers to fill 30 minutes of class time (so they don’t have to) will be welcomed with open arms. She may have offered to come to the house and drive me to the school to make sure I showed up. All kidding aside, it was an honor to have the opportunity to go to each of my four daughters’ second-grade classrooms to talk about Negro League Baseball, Jackie Robinson, and what he had to endure to leave his legacy. It was a privilege and a time in my life that I will always look back on fondly.

Join us in the celebration by dawning a number 42 jersey on Friday, April 15th. Or any other day. And learn more about Jackie’s impact on our game here. Then share it!


By Eric Pairitz, smartdept. Principal

A Women’s History Month Reflection

Women’s history month is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the important female figures who have shaped our paths through life. These might be family members, friends, or mentors. Some might be individuals we see every day, while others influence us from our memories alone.

One influential woman in my life was my Grandma Lissy, who passed away last October. She led a remarkable life, by all accounts. At sixteen years old, she escaped from the Holocaust, fleeing south from the Netherlands through France. It was only through good fortune and the heroic actions of the Portuguese consulate Aristides de Sousa Mendes that she and her family were able to cross into Spain, Portugal, and, eventually, the United States.

Upon arriving in the U.S., Lissy Jarvik continued her studies and eventually attended what is now Case Western University School of Medicine. In her early thirties, she married and began a family, juggling a prolific career. She led incredible advancements in the field of psychology and specifically in her research on twins and Alzheimer’s disease. Eventually, she became a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA, where she was a pioneer in the field of psychogeriatrics.

In her later life, my grandma thought a lot about how to document and share a life lived. She spent years working on an unfinished memoir and was passionately vocal about her escape from the Nazis thanks to de Sousa Mendes. Perhaps it was through her influence that I found myself pondering the same questions when she passed away in October of 2021. How do you honor such a life as it ends? How can you share and celebrate its memory?

This is a question many great thinkers have pondered over time. Several William Shakespeare’s sonnets, for instance, are dedicated to the notion, often concluding that children are the purest form of legacy. “Die single, and thine image dies with thee,” reads the last line in Sonnet 3, as it urges a youth gazing in a mirror to have children or be forgotten to the mists of time. Other individuals focus on the work we do in our lives. “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing [about],” advised Benjamin Franklin in the 1738 edition of “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”

These ideas echoed in my head as I helped clean out Grandma’s apartment last October. As we emptied the bookshelves, it occurred to me that the collection reflected her life. They held her interests and passions, friends and colleagues, and history. Her escape. Her career. Her family. Her joys. I felt her there. That is when it occurred to me—what better way to honor my grandma, who loved to give gifts, than to re-gift each book in her collection?

Thus began the “Lissy’s Library” project. I packed up all 375 unclaimed books from my grandma’s collection and brought them back to my apartment. I organized them, created an online survey, and invited everyone and anyone who might be interested in signing up for a book. So far, around 200 books have been claimed, and 100 have been mailed out to 27 US states and nine countries, spanning North America, Europe, and Asia. (And the project is still ongoing! If you’d like to receive a book, you can still sign up here.)

One of my favorite things about the project has been learning a little bit about each book recipient. Some people leave comments about their lives, making me feel the beauty of this impermanent community I am creating. One woman sent me a message that she had read about my grandma’s life and was inspired to share the story with her children. Other recipients commented on how the project helped them reflect on themselves or reminded them of their loved ones. That is a legacy for which I know my grandma would be proud.

So, this women’s month, I hope you, too, will take the opportunity to reflect on the people that have shaped you, the journeys they have taken, and the ways you can honor them.


By Leah Jarvik, guest contributor

Reimagining Imagine

Released in 1971 by John Lennon, the song Imagine was the former Beatle’s way of asking us all to imagine a place where the things that divide us did not exist. Fifty years later, his message, including the physical single, downloads, ringtones, streaming, and albums on which it was featured, has sold 21 million copies, according to ChartMasters.

But here’s a what-if…

What if Lennon’s chart-topping signature song had been called Reimagine? What if he had asked us to act? To not just think about what life without the things that divide us would be like, but to rethink what existed and make it into something better. Instead of asking all the people to imagine living life in peace, imagine (pun intended) if he had written, “reimagine all the people living life in peace.” Sending out a call to action to an entire generation and the generations that followed to take steps to remake something broken into something better.

Would the 21 million people so profoundly touched by his message that they added it to their music collection be enough to make a difference if they had been asked to do more than imagine? Would reimaging have created a powerful movement that, when compounded by 50 years, would have moved us closer to a world with no countries and nothing to kill or die for? If John Lennon had asked us to do something, instead of just thinking about how nice it would be, could we literally be “living life in peace” right now?

Were we just two measly letters away from a better world? A stinking R and a crummy E?

Can someone get in a time machine, go back fifty years, and buy a vowel?

Okay. To be fair, you do have to imagine something happening to take appropriate steps towards reimagining it, I’m telling myself. My own business was built by first having a good idea and then creating a feasible plan to execute it. That said, couldn’t Lennon have put out a follow-up single asking us to expound on what we’ve imagined? Was he so naïve to believe that we would just create such a movement and take the next step all by ourselves? Ice cream moguls Ben and Jerry kinda got the message. I guess. In 2008 they reimagined the concept by creating a new ice cream flavor called “Imagine Whirled Peace.” Their attempt at changing the world with caramel, toffee cookie pieces, and chocolate peace signs was retired in 2013.

But here’s (another) what if…

What if John, a.k.a. the Clever One, had not reached so far with his ask of the world peace? Maybe that was too grand of a concept. What if he had just asked us all to imagine or reimagine considering the feelings of all people on earth? What if we had spent the last fifty years reimagining how to treat all people equally regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, ability, disability, gender, religion, culture, or sexual orientation? Wouldn’t focusing on diversity, equality, and inclusion ultimately have led us down the same path to world peace? Possibly with better efficiency?

Here’s a thought…

What if we called in a favor to Yoko Ono? After all, the Imagine concept came from Ono’s book Grapefruit, according to facts.com. In