Monthly Archives: August 2015

meet steph: chicago aviator

Steph at Coffee

Stephanie hails from Silverthorne, Colo., a small town near Breckenridge. But she says she loves Chicago and plans on staying!

I just made a very serious, long-term commitment.

I decided to join a book club. But really. If you’re a busy person and you’ve ever been in a book club, you know the struggle of completing one whole book every month is real. But I am determined to read more, so I shall persevere!

Anyway, at my new book club, I met Stephanie Hlavacek. And Stephanie is an aviator.

Stephanie flies private. She works in the aviation department of JD Norman Industries, an auto parts manufacturing company headquartered in Addison, Ill. Mostly, she flies the CEO and other executives in their private Hawker 800 XP aircraft to their various plant locations around the Midwest, and she also occasionally transports them to Canada, Mexico and England, too. But the road to becoming a pilot is long and can be turbulent (see what I did there? But Steph advises not to worry about turbulence—the planes and pilots can handle it. Really.).

Steph’s journey to the sky began when she was 10 years old. One day, out of the blue, she told her parents: “I want to be a pilot.” In high school, when it was time to think about college, she was still dreaming about aviation, so they sent her to a single flight lesson to make sure she really loved it. Of course, she was hooked and wanted to begin training immediately. She attended the University of Illinois’ aviation program in Champaign, Ill., where she did all of her flight training. After graduation, she worked at the university as a flight instructor for two years, then moved to Chicago and got a job at the Aurora airport—instructing and flying charters and eventually a private jet. A few years later, she was offered the position as one of JD Norman’s first private pilots. Continue reading

meet sara: yogini, teacher and nomad

Sara and Alysse at Cathedral Square in Milwaukee

Koha (as in Koha Yoga) is the Maori word for gift. After missing a flight from L.A., Sara headed to Venice Beach and caught eyes with Whakapaingia. It was “love at first flight,” as they say on their website. An instantaneous partnership and Koha Flying Yoga were created (in 2009). Baby Kotahiataahua, meaning “Beautiful Oneness,” followed soon after. Most of us call her Tahi!

A big part of Sara Laimon Luke’s story begins on a farm in Zimbabwe.

But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

Instead of 8,456 miles away, I first met Sara at a park 4 blocks from my apartment. In 2013, during Milwaukee’s Bastille Days, Sara and her husband Whakapaingia (Whaka) were sharing their acroyoga moves on the grass, inviting anyone to play. Together, they own and run Koha Yoga, and what I experienced was basically grown-up gymnastics mixed with the airplane move you do with your mom when you’re little, infused with some realllllllly good-feeling back stretches, and I’m so happy I joined in! From there, I went to my first-ever Koha Yoga acro workshop with Jessy, and I spent a week-long retreat with Sara and Whaka in Costa Rica this March. It was a trip of a lifetime.

And yet, until a couple weeks ago when I met Sara at the home where she grew up—above a bait shop on a lake halfway to Madison—I didn’t know about Africa or a huge section of her path. Continue reading

meet monique: milwaukee ph.d.-to-be

Monique has worked hard to be fully funded through her entire collegiate career, which gave her the spaces and time she needed to study, read, research and organize. “I’ve been able to find opportunities that nurtured passions but also put food on table,” Monique says. This woman is an inspiration.

Monique has worked hard to be fully funded through her entire collegiate career, which gave her the space and time she needed to study, read, research and organize. “I’ve been able to find opportunities that nurtured passions but also put food on the table,” Monique says. This woman is an inspiration.

Monique Liston is power and light. I don’t really know how else to say it without getting into corny territory.

She has a gift for taking seemingly insurmountable problems and bringing them down to earth; while some people suggest I share a few traits with the Energizer bunny, Monique’s energy is passionate, unrelenting, focused and true. Kate and I are grateful for this blog to give us a reason to sit down with people like her.

I first got to soak up some of Monique’s awesomeness at the most memorable session I’ve attended at the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee: Toward a Dignity-Based Framework for Serving Boys and Men of Color. Monique and Dr. Decoteau Irby, the assistant professor leading the project, presented a workshop that brought in nonprofit organizations to talk frankly about race, dignity and opportunity. The duo is creating a scale to measure dignity, especially when it comes to working with boys and men of color.

Monique graduated with her Master’s in Public Administration from University of Delaware and returned afterward to where she was born and raised: Milwaukee. Her first job back was Project Assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Women’s Resource Center. She then moved on to UW-Whitewater to teach in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, returned to UW-Milwaukee to be Assistant Director of the Resource Center, and is now a research assistant with Dr. Irby at the Research Center for Urban Education and Leadership Development. She also does consulting on similar work—and during all of this, she has been pursuing her Ph.D. in urban education and leadership development since 2011. She plans to finish by fall 2016. Continue reading

our first pwp party!

Last Thursday, we hosted our first-ever real-life PWP party! We have talked with each other and the women we interview about bringing everyone together for more than two years now, so we finally set a date and made it happen. June 30, oh, you were a good day.

It was so exciting and fun to bring together nearly 40 people—including women we’ve featured from Milwaukee, friends, and panachies-to-be—in one of our favorite Milwaukee spots that we also happen to have featured: The Ruby Tap. Brooke, Sarah and their staff graciously hosted our gathering and put together the most delicious cheeses, charcuterie, olives, almonds and popcorn to pair with our glasses of rosé, pinot and more. Yum yum yum—same thing next week?IMG_8865

Top Five Moments: Continue reading