Shooting for the Stars, and Stripes

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For a brief period of my life, I had a briefcase, a secretary, and a view from the 18th floor. I thought I’d practice law in a big firm for a while, then settle down to a quaint small town, where I’d hang my own shingle like Matlock.

(Sans the seer-sucker suit and sideburns, that is.)

But, before I had a chance to climb another rung of the ladder toward success, I was packing up to move with my Navy husband to Washington, D.C., to Monterey, California, to Molesworth, England, to Norfolk, Virginia, and so on, and so on, and so on.

Although military life has been exciting, rewarding and adventurous, it was the death knell for my career as a litigation attorney. My student loan bills rolled in like clockwork, month after month, year after year – however, not much else in our life went as expected.

In 2010, our family was stationed in Germany, and with our three kids at school, I yearned for something other than making sandwiches and cleaning toilets – something that would challenge me intellectually. Something that did not require a license or a stable location.

This is the plight of so many military spouses today.

Earlier this year, Blue Star Families completed a study titled “Social Cost Analysis of the Unemployment and Underemployment of Military Spouses” and found that “[m]ilitary spouses face a staggering 18 percent unemployment rate compared to a national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. More than half of those who do work face crippling underemployment – they are six times more likely to earn salaries below their education and experience level.”

Regarding educational attainment, although the youngest group of military spouses lag behind their civilian counterparts, after the age of 25 “military spouses quickly catch up to and exceed the civilian level of education.”

Regardless of education level, military spouses have more difficulty than civilians in finding meaningful employment due to “frequency of moves, inability to find employment that matched skill and education levels, inability to find employment that is flexible enough to accommodate their military spouse’s schedule, child care issues, or stigmatization of the military lifestyle and the impact on employability.”

Furthermore, the more education, the higher the income gap between military and civilian spouses. For those with a high school degree, civilian spouses earn 31% more than military spouses. For those with bachelors, masters or professional degrees, the percentages increase to 40%, 47% and 45%, respectively.

Despite these grim statistics, many determined military spouses still succeed. My own experience has taught me that courage, flexibility and stick-to-itiveness can enable military spouses to find rewarding careers.

While we were stationed in Germany and I was searching for something to do with those braincells, I decided, after the Washington Post published an essay I’d submitted, that I would become a syndicated columnist.

With no journalism degree or experience in the newspaper industry, other than a neighborhood newsletter I created back in 1977 while I was in the 5th grade that my mom photocopied and helped me deliver, I set my sights on becoming a military spouse columnist.

For years, I worked hard to realize this ambition. I studied everything from submission guidelines to self-syndication tips to AP style. I created “The Meat and Potatoes of Life” concept, took my own head shot with my arm stretched out, and, one at a time, painstakingly submitted my column to military and civilian newspapers across the US.

After seven years of rejections, hard work, and blind determination, I am proud to announce that this column, which appears in approximately 20 newspapers from Rhode Island to Virginia to California to Hawaii, has been picked up by the Grand Poobah of military publications — Stars and Stripes newspaper. My column will continue to appear in your newspaper and on my blog, but as of September 30th, it will now reach US military families at home and abroad.

I may not have realized my vision of hanging a shingle on my own law practice, but I now dream of using humor and honesty to spread the message that, no matter how hard military life gets, you are not alone, and you can do this.

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Comments: 23

  1. Josie September 30, 2016 at 2:15 pm Reply

    Congratulations Lisa! So well deserved! So excited that you’ll continue to be sharing your humor, wit and sound perspective with us!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari November 6, 2016 at 3:44 pm Reply

      Thanks Josie!

  2. energywriter September 30, 2016 at 7:39 am Reply

    Congratulations, Lisa!! You’ve earned this with your excellent writing spiced with humor and honest emotion. Love the graphics with this post. The 1945 Stars and Stripes was fun to read and the unemployment graph made the stats real.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari November 6, 2016 at 3:43 pm Reply

      I was able to find that on the internet – pretty cool!

  3. Holly September 30, 2016 at 1:49 am Reply

    good deal! My husband is assigned to Ramstein AB and I have given up on ever working again … have gone to a bazillion interviews and never get selected. We will be here probably another 5 or 6 years before DH retires for good.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari November 6, 2016 at 3:43 pm Reply

      Never say never!

  4. Michelle M September 29, 2016 at 2:19 pm Reply

    This is such a great achievement, Lisa! I am so excited for you, but mostly I am thrilled for the larger military community out there who get to share the laughter and the occasional tear with you as you shine a light on the daily challenges a life of service brings to the military family. Huzzah, Huzzah, Huzzah!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 29, 2016 at 3:54 pm Reply

      Thanks Michelle — Thanks for hearing me gripe at the dog park when we were neighbors!

  5. Lucy Shipe Decher September 29, 2016 at 1:53 pm Reply

    Congratulations, Lisa! Your voice sings even to non-milItaly readers!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 29, 2016 at 2:27 pm Reply

      Excellent – with my husband retiring and us transitioning to civilian life, I hope to reach more and more civilian readers. However, I will always see life through a military perspective, and will always be a military spouse no matter where life takes us next. Thanks for reading, Lucy!

  6. Judy M Kemper September 29, 2016 at 1:40 pm Reply

    Congratulations Lisa!!! So proud of you!! So happy you never gave up. Your articles are wonderful

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 29, 2016 at 2:25 pm Reply

      I thought about giving up … well… almost every week for the last five years! But I’m glad I didn’t – thanks Judy!!

  7. AFspouse September 29, 2016 at 1:12 pm Reply

    I’m genuinely happy and thrilled for you – and I don’t even know you! BUT – I do so enjoy your column, your humor, your perspective. And long before you described your path toward syndication, I’ve admired your accomplishments and thought of them as a model for getting there myself someday. Did you know you were that? A role model for people you don’t even know! Thank you for being you! 🙂

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm Reply

      Cool! As long as you are willing to work hard and dedicate yourself to developing writing talent, you can succeed at this too. Thanks so much for your kind words – I definitely never considered myself a role model!

  8. Anonymous September 29, 2016 at 12:26 pm Reply

    Congratulations!! This was a great piece, so happy for you! Persistence and hard work pays off!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 29, 2016 at 2:22 pm Reply

      Thanks!

  9. Patrice September 29, 2016 at 11:41 am Reply

    I never doubted it for a minute! Your writing has always been keenly accurate and embarrassingly personal – a perfect combination to make us want to keep coming back for more. I am so happy that so many more will appreciate your insight! 💚

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 29, 2016 at 2:22 pm Reply

      It’s true – I’ve always had a need to embarrass myself, maybe for laughs, but probably for attention! I’m glad the readers like it, regardless of the reason.

  10. Mary September 29, 2016 at 11:08 am Reply

    Congratulations Lisa!! This is so very well deserved! Your stories have brought many smiles, and sometimes tears, but always wonderful heartfelt messages.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 29, 2016 at 2:19 pm Reply

      That’s been my goal, Mary, so I love hearing that I’m succeeding a little!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 29, 2016 at 2:21 pm Reply

      Thanks Mary – that’s what I like to hear!

  11. Erin September 29, 2016 at 10:36 am Reply

    Today is a great day for this article. THANK YOU. So proud of you! See you in the funny papers!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 29, 2016 at 2:21 pm Reply

      Thanks Erin — you were with me in Germany when I was taking the leap into the unknown! Thank God I was blissfully ignorant of how much hard work it would take!

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