dogs, family, Germany, YouTube

Our “Noyzi” year…

The featured photo was taken the day we adopted Noyzi– October 4, 2020.

Looks like it’s going to be another sedate Sunday here in Germany. Today is German Unity Day. It’s also Sunday, which means everything’s closed, anyway. Looks like rain is in the forecast, too. I have a feeling we’ll be chilling at home. Maybe we’ll watch a movie or get hooked on a Netflix show or something…

For now, though, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the past year. It was a special year for many reasons, mostly because of challenges related to COVID-19, and because some people who were friends and relatives have moved on to the next world. It’s also special because this year, we’ve had Noyzi.

Bill and I adopted Noyzi last year after we lost our sweet beagle, Zane, to lymphoma. We had tried to adopt a dog from a local rescue, but it was during the first days of the pandemic. We weren’t allowed to travel to get him ourselves, so the rescue arranged for a pet taxi to bring him to us. The pet taxi driver who drove him from up north neglected to secure him properly before she took him out of the car. He escaped, and was killed on the Autobahn.

I was heartbroken after both of those dogs died. One day, I mentioned on Facebook that I really wanted another dog. My friend Mary happened to know an American woman who rehomes rescue dogs from Kosovo. Mary put me in touch with Meg, Noyzi’s savior, and we embarked on our journey to bring Noyzi home. It took about six months to get everything set.

First, we had to get a blood test for Noyzi to make sure he was rabies free. Then we had to wait for the borders to open, making travel to Kosovo possible for Meg. Then we had to arrange a weekend when we could meet her halfway and pick up the dog. I chronicled that trip on my travel blog, which you can find here.

Prior to picking up Noyzi in Kranjska Gora, a border resort town in northwestern Slovenia, we had never seen him in person. All I knew about him was what I had seen in pictures and videos of him. A lot of the photos and videos I had seen were of when he was a puppy. Consequently, I didn’t know how big he was before we picked him up. It’s a damned good thing we have a SUV. He had to ride in the back cargo area, because Arran was not too happy about having a new canine pal. The backseat also isn’t quite big enough for Noyzi, either.

Noyzi was petrified when we brought him into our house. He was confused by the glass doors, and bumped into them a few times, thinking that since he could see through the glass, he could just go outside. And when he first went outside, he wanted to stay there. I’m guessing it was because that was what he was used to. In Kosovo, he lived outside with a bunch of other dogs. They had shelter, but they didn’t spend all of their time in the shelter.

Within a couple of days, Noyzi realized that being inside was a good thing. So then he didn’t want to go outside, because it was like he was afraid we were going to make him stay out there all the time. He was afraid of both Bill and me, but he was less afraid of me. He wouldn’t let Bill pet him at first, and then he would only let him pet him if he was lying on his bedding. He would also submissively urinate when Bill made sudden moves, like taking off his belt or a jacket.

After a week, Noyzi got his own bed. It was his safe space. He would stay there about 95 percent of the time, never venturing beyond the immediate area around the bed.

Noyzi also did not know how to walk on a leash. I had to teach him that the harness and leash were his friends. After a few lessons, we trusted him enough to take a walk through the neighborhood. It was quite a thrill when he finally got the hang of it. And now, a year later, he demands walks every day. If I don’t take him out, he’ll bug me. He’ll even bark at me until I get up. Then, while I get dressed, he’ll goose me in the butt.

A few months ago, Noyzi abandoned the bed in the living room, where he’d been spending most of his time. Instead, he gradually moved himself upstairs, finally installing himself on some old bedding in my office. When it became clear that Noyzi wasn’t going to be sleeping downstairs anymore, I moved his big dog bed to my office. He now hangs out there most of the time, but he’s not averse to going to other rooms. He used to be afraid to leave his bed at all.

This is the first video we have of Noyzi. It was made a few minutes after we got him home. He was pretty scared.
This video was made almost a year ago. This is Noyzi’s very first bath, ever, in his lifetime. Notice that he seems to love it.
This video was made in early November 2020. Noyzi had finally learned how to walk on the leash.

Noyzi made friends with our next door neighbor’s Labrador, Tommi, who is very young and playful. For awhile, it looked like Tommi might crawl under the fence for a play session!

Sadly, Tommi doesn’t visit under the fence anymore.

In the spring, we put up a new fly screen, because the one we had was all torn up and Noyzi had destroyed it even further by pawing at it. Noyzi didn’t know what to make of it. He still comes bounding through it in a panic most days, but it no longer deters him from coming in or going outside.

It’s time I made a new music video…
Noyzi now tells me what he needs. He barks at me when he wants a walk.

As I’m writing this, Noyzi just came over for a pat on the head. He’s become such a loving, goofy, funny family member. He’s also remarkably well-behaved. I never even had to house train him. He somehow knew from the beginning not to pee in the house. I’ve only had to clean up a couple of messy accidents caused by dietary indiscretions. He does, on the other hand, shed a lot. Every week, I sweep and vacuum lots of hairy evidence that he’s in our lives.

I have never had a dog like Noyzi. Actually, I could say that about any of our dogs, but I can especially say it about Noyzi. He’s completely different from any dog I’ve ever had. He’s the biggest dog I’ve ever had, and the only one that wasn’t American. Most of my dogs have been hounds. We had a couple of dogs when I was a child who weren’t hounds, but they were small dogs that were easy to handle and move. Noyzi probably weighs about 70 pounds. Thankfully, he’s taught himself to jump into the back of the Volvo, which spares my back.

Noyzi on the day he left Kosovo… Two other lucky dogs also made their way to new homes that day.

Noyzi has really made a lot of progress from the shy, terrified, pariah dog he was a year ago. Now, he’s much more confident and happy to be part of a family. He’s even made some progress with his fear of men. He will come up to Bill for snacks, and when the plumber was here a few days ago, Noyzi bowed down to be petted. Just a few weeks ago, he would not have done that. It’s so rewarding to watch him evolve, and let go of all of those fears he’s had for so long. I think we were meant to have him… and having him has taught us so much.

Below are some photos that show Noyzi’s journey…

I’m so glad we adopted Noyzi. I have never regretted taking in any of our dogs, but having him has been especially rewarding and educational, on so many levels. He’s taught us so much about survival, trust, love, and Kosovo, which I will admit is a country I knew almost nothing about before we met Noyzi and Meg. He really is a wonderful family member. Even ol’ Arran is coming around to loving him as much as Bill and I do.

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Germany, history, lessons learned, politicians, politics

Twenty years after 9/11, basic decency is disappearing…

A couple of years ago, I wrote my 9/11 story and posted it on this blog. Almost everybody who was alive on 9/11/01 has a 9/11 story. I guess the only ones who don’t are those who were somehow unconscious that day. Or maybe people who live in remote places they have never left, where the world’s news can’t reach them.

Suffice to say, those of us who live in the modern world, where there’s television and Internet, have a 9/11 story. Or, at the very least, they’ve heard other people’s memories of that day, if they weren’t around at that time. Like… I wasn’t here for John F. Kennedy’s assassination, but I’ve read and heard plenty of stories of that day. I think 9/11 was much bigger than Kennedy’s assassination. 9/11 permanently changed the world.

I remember 9/11 very well. It was the week after Bill and I, then just “friends”, had a magical Labor Day weekend. No one in our families knew we were dating. So, when Bill went to work at the Pentagon on 9/11, no one knew that he had a special friend who would worry all day, wondering if he had survived. After 9/11, we decided that we needed to make our relationship official. A few months later, we were engaged. We married in 2002.

I remember what it was like for Bill in the days that followed September 11, 2001. At that time, people had come together in solidarity. There were people who offered their support to any and all emergency workers. Police officers, nurses, doctors, military service members, firefighters, were all being heralded as heroes. I remember how people would stop Bill when he was in uniform and thank him for his service.

I read a story this morning about a couple who happened to be on a flight from England bound for Houston, Texas that got diverted to Gander, a small town in Newfoundland, Canada. They fell in love while they were stranded in Canada. Aside from falling in love, the couple, along with all of the other 7000 people who were suddenly diverted to Gander because of terrorism, enjoyed the most extraordinary hospitality from the locals in Gander.

Americans were Americans, before they were Democrats or Republicans. People came together to help each other through a crisis. It wasn’t just Americans, either. I wasn’t in Germany at that time, but this morning, I read an article about what it was like in Stuttgart on 9/11. Germans and Americans stood side by side in solidarity as people made sense of what happened.

Above is a post that reminded me about how Germans and Americans came together after 9/11. That photo brought tears to my eyes yesterday, partly because I was moved, and partly because it probably wouldn’t happen in 2021.

Twenty years later, it seems like most of the goodwill and civility that was so prevalent after 9/11 is gone. Now, on 9/11/21, we have people laughing at teenagers who share personal stories about losing family members to COVID-19. Grady Knox, a high school student in Tennessee, bravely tried to explain why he thinks mask mandates are a good thing to have in his school. People told him to shut up. It could not have been easy for Grady to stand up and talk about losing his grandmother. Public speaking is not easy for a lot of people. But for him to stand up and speak and then have his neighbors laugh at him and tell him to shut up… well, that’s just shameful. And it makes me think that those people are not good people. They have learned nothing, and have no empathy for others.

What the hell is WRONG with people?

Today, we have governors who are more interested in money and power than they are in saving human lives (except for the unborn, of course). Joe Biden– recently reviled for the way the U.S. military FINALLY left Afghanistan after twenty long years– delivered a tough speech, expressing how disappointed he is in the complete lack of concern Republican leaders have for their constituents. Biden has been threatened with lawsuits, as he signs legislation mandating that people in certain workplaces get vaccinated against COVID-19. Biden is not looking so wimpy now, as he tells the governors to “have at it” in their plans to sue him.

President Joe Biden on Thursday issued two executive orders mandating vaccines for federal workers and contractors and announced new requirements for large employers and health care providers that he said would affect around 100 million workers, more than two-thirds of the U.S. workforce.

From MSNBC: https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/why-republicans-hope-derail-biden-s-bold-new-vaccine-policy-n1278900?cid=sm_fb_maddow&fbclid=IwAR07wYh1NCrCl2lTB2R_sMkiCVLML7tycCXzr-Srn8oyNeQuZhq0JtZjvOY

I read one comment from a Republican who said if Donald Trump had ever tried to enforce vaccinations, people would be “horrified” and calling for Trump’s head on a platter. However, I think it’s highly unlikely that Trump would have ever done what Joe Biden is doing. Trump does not care about anyone but himself, and he would not have done something that would alienate his conservative base the way the vaccine and mask mandates would have. There is a huge difference between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Joe Biden has basic decency and respect for others. Donald Trump, simply put, does not.

Donald Trump’s encouragement to get the vaccine was lukewarm… he got boos and laughter. I think he’s created monsters.
Southerners who are getting sick aren’t thinking of anyone but themselves… until they get sick and realize just how fucking horrible COVID is.

Today, we have governors who are gleefully signing legislation that pits neighbors against each other, and puts bounties on the heads of women who seek abortions. Meanwhile, Greg Abbott is fine with people walking around, spreading COVID-19 as they tote their guns openly and run their mouths about their freedoms. Freedom means nothing if you’re dead… but try to explain that to some of these folks. They insist that COVID-19 is not a risk for them or or their families… or anyone else. Somehow, they’ve managed to ignore the news stories and documentaries about people who have had COVID-19. They’ve even managed to ignore Howard Stern, who has berated the willfully ignorant.

I can’t wait to vote for whomever runs against this man.
I empathize with his frustration.

This antipathy especially happens on the Internet. Even on the most benign of posts, there’s a chance someone will lash out with nastiness or unnecessary snark. Yesterday, I was answering a question on Toytown Germany from an American who is trying to get her US Moderna shots recognized by a local pharmacist, so she can enjoy a more normal life. I expressed empathy for her situation, commenting that it would be nice if we had a more global solution that would make it easier for people from all countries to get their shots recognized. It’s in everyone’s best interests to encourage the vaccines and reward people for doing the right thing. You’d think that would be a pretty innocuous comment, right? I certainly didn’t think it would go south.

Sure enough, some guy from up north responded snarkily, by sharing a picture of the yellow World Health Organization booklet, and writing that is the global standard that works fine. Yes, it’s true, that yellow booklet is used around the world. But, for some reason, the CDC isn’t using it, so that comment isn’t helpful. There are a lot of Americans who live in Germany. Some of them got shots when they went to the USA, where they were easier to get. Then they came back to Germany and, if they live in an area where there aren’t a lot of Americans, are not able to get their vaccines made official in Germany. This is a problem. I was trying to help someone solve the problem for themselves. For my efforts, I got a shitty comment from some smartass who thought that was the right time to act like a jerk.

I could have ignored it entirely. Or I could have responded with a snarky comment of my own. Instead, I agreed that the yellow booklet is useful around the world, but it’s not helpful to Americans in Germany right now. Americans aren’t issued the yellow booklets, even though that would make things easier. Being rude to me doesn’t change that fact. And then I added that I was trying to be nice, and being snarky and negative isn’t helpful to the community. Those kinds of crappy responses just discourage people from posting, which defeats the purpose of having an online community… or any community, really. Why try to help someone if you’re going to be mocked for your efforts?

I realize that even as I preach about this, I’m as guilty as anyone is. I do try not to respond to people with rudeness. Sometimes, I will admit, I fail. Because, like so many other people, I’m fed up. I’m tired of people who can’t simply cooperate and have basic respect for other people. But still, I think being kind is the better way to go, most of the time. I truly do believe that being understanding and decent is, overall, better than being angry, mean, malicious, and rude. There really is enough of that in the world today.

I think it’s sad that we haven’t learned much from 9/11. On September 11, 2001, people around the world came together in solidarity. On September 11, 2021, a lot of people are acting like selfish jerks. It’s depressing… although, I guess if I look for it, I can find some positive things about today. Like, for instance, the fact that Bill was not killed on 9/11, and despite everything, we’re still together and basically healthy and happy with each other’s company. But it’s hard to ignore all of the divisiveness and evil that is being perpetuated right now.

When things were good…
Twenty years later, when things had really gone to shit.

I do hope that people will find a way to come together. Right now, I’m reminded of the opening of the film, Lean on Me… as we see how things can change for the worse in 20 years. Maybe a new version of Mr. Clark is in order to straighten us all out… Maybe Joe Biden is turning into him now. One can always hope, right?

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Germany, silliness

Greetings from the Schwarzwald… where pan pipes are considered soothing.

Yesterday was a very busy day. We woke up early, with plans to go to Stuttgart and see our dentist. We were long overdue in seeing our dentist, Dr. B. It had been over two years, mainly due to COVID-19, and the inability to travel with ease coupled with conflicts of schedules. Originally, I had planned for us to stay in Stuttgart, but our favorite hotel was totally booked. Then I remembered how much I liked visiting The Black Forest when we still lived near it. So, even though our hotel is 100 kilometers from our dentist’s office, I booked us in a very nice resort for four nights. But we spent most of yesterday in our old stomping grounds.

I am pleased to report that I had a good checkup. Bill was not as lucky. He’s been complaining about his teeth recently and, sure enough, as the dentist was probing, one of Bill’s fillings fell out. Bill has to come back to Stuttgart next week. He’ll just take the ICE train and do a one day visit. We both got very thorough cleanings that were much needed and appreciated. My gums are a little sensitive today.

After our dentist visit, we had a hearty lunch at a steak joint. Then we met someone in my wine group who was going to be picking up corks. I collect corks from our many bottles of wine to give to the crafters among us. After chatting with the lady from the wine group, we headed back to the hotel, spent a little time at the pool, and then I hung out at the bar, while Bill talked to his therapist online. It was a little strange sitting alone in the bar. This resort is loaded with German couples and families, most of whom don’t seem to speak English. I caught the bartender glancing at me, probably wondering where Bill went.

Over the sound system, they were playing music from the 80s and 90s. We’re talking Celine Dion, All 4 One, Boys to Men, and Phil Collins. It was actually a little depressing. For one thing, those songs were all hits when I was a lot younger. As I was listening, I was reminded of my 20s, when I was younger, healthier, and probably prettier, although you’d never know it by my non-existent love life in those days. I had images in my head of going to bars and feeling invisible and broke.

Add in the fact that while this hotel is very pretty and has old school charm, it’s also a bit dated. And so, I felt almost like I was in a time warp, accented by the outfits some of the people were wearing. Not that I can talk about that myself…

This hotel also pipes annoying Muzak into the halls and restaurant. It’s basically a step up from the horrible Muzak my dad used to force me to listen to on our car trips. Bill and I were eating breakfast and “Careless Whisper” by Wham came on, only it had been softened into a soothing version of the original. And that arrangement included pan pipes!

Who in the hell wants to listen to pan pipes in an 80s song about breaking up? It reminds me of the time I heard a Muzak version of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n’ Roses.

I know… I know… who pays attention to the music piped into restaurants? I do. I’m obviously not the only one. I am a frustrated musician. Every time I hear pan pipes, I’m reminded of Zamfir. He used to be on ads in 80s and 90s, selling his pan pipe versions of the day’s hit songs. It made me want to tear out my hair.

Yikes! I guess I can see why some people like this kind of music… but it makes me cringe.

In college, I joined Sigma Alpha Iota, which is an honorary music fraternity for women (as opposed to a sorority). Pan pipes are part of SAI’s insignia. Members have pins they wear that have pan pipes in the middle of them. I appreciated being a sister of SAI, but I’ll be damned if I will willingly listen to pan pipes by choice. I’d rather visit the dentist, as long as he doesn’t play Zamfir’s greatest hits during the exam.

As Bill and I were discussing the pan pipe infused hit song, “Careless Whisper”, originally made famous by George Michael, somehow our conversation morphed into chat about patient privacy. Germans actually have a very interesting approach to privacy. Bill was lamenting about how our dentist, who was trained in the United States and is half-American on his dad’s side, doesn’t have any qualms about talking about other people’s issues. HIPAA does not exist in Germany. So Dr. B will tell Bill about my teeth, and he will tell me about Bill’s teeth. He doesn’t bat an eye… and in fact, he speaks loudly enough that anyone in the waiting room can hear him.

But… people who commit crimes in Germany are often not publicly named. Here, there exists the right to be “forgotten”. They don’t go in for canceling people. So, if someone commits a crime, he or she can do time and then try to rejoin society. Read a newspaper about a crime and you’ll see a photo of the alleged perpetrator, face blocked by a binder and first name and last initial used instead the whole name.

Germany also has an annoying Data Privacy law, which requires Web sites to state upfront that they use cookies. Every time I hit a site in Germany, I get a pop up that tells me about cookies… and any site that doesn’t want to comply is unavailable over here without the use of a VPN.

I’m sure there’s more to the privacy law than pop up ads. A few years ago, when I was having issues with quitting Hello Fresh, I read that if I wanted to make a big stink, I could remind them of the data security law to light a fire under them. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, although there was a lot of swearing involved with getting them to completely delete my account.

Anyway, no one screams about HIPAA here, because there is no such thing. Our dentist will happily talk about my last remaining baby tooth, which will turn 50 next year, should I live that long and it doesn’t get abscessed or anything. He’s probably told his other patients about it. Every time I see him, he mentions it. I think he said that prior to meeting me, the oldest person he had ever met with baby teeth was about 35.

Yesterday, as we were driving back to the Black Forest, we passed by our former digs… or, actually, we didn’t go by where we lived. We just passed the town, and where we used to turn to go home. It was a little surreal. We spent four years there. It was mostly a good time for us, except for dealing with our former landlady, who seemed determine to paint us as people we aren’t and make us pay for things that weren’t our responsibility. That experience kind of soured me a little… I would have preferred to have left on much better terms, as we have in almost every other living situation we’ve been in as a married couple. But I guess this kind of thing happens sometimes.

I tried to appreciate how truly beautiful the area where we lived is. It really was a naturally beautiful place. Where we are now isn’t nearly as idyllic, although it is also an attractive area. It’s just that the Black Forest is extraordinarily beautiful, even at the edges, which was where we lived. I miss being able to take off on weekends and be in the forest, where there are stunning views everywhere you look. And it’s nice to be back down here… Germany is different in this area than it is where we are now. God help me, if you were to ask me where I feel more at home in Germany, I’d have to say the Stuttgart area… as whacked out as it can be on many levels. I do love it here… and it’s great to be back. I hope we can do some more short visits. I guess if COVID keeps up, we may keep traveling within Germany.

Well… Mr. Bill has come back to the room. He’s excited, because the sun is out, and he wants to go for a walk. I suppose I owe it to myself to take a walk and exercise my old bones. It would be a good idea, since today is high falutin’ culinary day. We have reservations at two fancy restaurants today, since there are weddings tomorrow. So I’ll stop here… and try not to get too upset over the news… or pan pipes arrangements in piped in music from the 80s and 90s. The Schwarzwald is beautiful… but it probably appeals most to people of a certain age. Alas, I am reaching that age.

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Germany, racism

Repost: One story leads to another… or– Mabel Grammer, the extreme “anti dependa”

Here’s a follow up post to the one I wrote about General Nadja West. This post was written August 6, 2016 and appears here as/is.

It never ceases to amaze me how you can go from learning about one thing to another.  Sometimes, it feels a little like digging for gold.  I’ll start reading something, learn an interesting tidbit, then study the tidbit more until it leads to an even bigger and more interesting story.  That’s what happened to me yesterday right after I posted about how military folks often end up marrying, dating, and/or mating out of their own cultures.

Yesterday, I was inspired to write a post about LTG Nadja West based on a short news article I read about her.  Before yesterday, I had never heard of LTG West.  I’ll be honest.  The actual article about her wasn’t that interesting, other than the fact that she’s a very high ranking black woman in the Army who happened to be speaking at an Army post where I spent a lot of time when I was growing up.  What  initially intrigued me was seeing that she’s clearly a product of a collaboration between a German woman and a black man.  Since I live in Germany, I’ve seen that phenomenon many times and it really fascinates me.   

I know I wrote about LTG West yesterday, but I wrote my post before I learned more about her story through an obituary for her adoptive mother, Mabel Treadwell Grammer, who died in June 2002.  In 2002, LTG West was a Lieutenant Colonel, just one rank higher than Bill was at the time.  He would be promoted the following year for the last time, and LTG West would continue to climb to the stratospheric rank she’s currently holding. 

LTG West’s mother, Mabel Grammer, was an incredible woman.  She graduated from Ohio State University and became an activist for civil rights.  She was also a journalist.  As a young woman, she fought the War Department in an effort to desegregate Arlington National Cemetery.  She interviewed Thurgood Marshall and stayed at the then whites only Waldorf Astoria Hotel.  She was a mover and a shaker.  Clearly, Mabel Grammer was a woman who was a go getter.

In 1950, Mabel Treadwell Grammer married her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Oscar George Grammer Sr.  She then became an “Army wife”, like I was, and also like me, was unable to have children of her own.  Like so many other Army wives, she eventually moved to Germany.  Like so many other Army wives, she ended up with way too much time on her hands. 

Mabel Grammer used her time to explore Europe.  During her travels, Mrs. Grammer visited the shrine at Lourdes in France.  According to Mrs. Grammer’s obituary and LTG West, Mabel Grammer suddenly had a “vision” of sorts.  She realized that she had much to offer others.  She decided to devote her time and energy to helping other people instead of focusing only on herself.

Mrs. Grammer went back to Germany and began to visit orphanages, where she became acquainted with “brown babies”.  Known in Germany as “Mischlingskinder“, these were babies who were born to German women and black American servicemen.  Their German mothers couldn’t or wouldn’t keep them, so they were given up to orphanages, where they languished.  These children weren’t adopted by German families because they were mixed race.  Many thousands of these so-called “brown babies” were born in Germany during and after World War II.   

A woman who was adopted in Germany by a Black family. She explains that even though she’s half German, she feels like a tourist in Germany.

In post war Germany, it was difficult for for Soldiers to marry the German women they had been dating.  The Soldiers needed permission from their commanding officers and the women had to jump through many hoops to gain approval.  Complicating matters was the fact that in those days, interracial dating was extremely taboo in both Germany and the United States.  In fact, marriage between races wasn’t fully legalized in the United States until 1967 and even then, it remained taboo for many years.  In Nazi Germany, interracial marriage was also forbidden.  In essence, the babies born to these interracial unions were abandoned by two “super powers”. 

Mr. and Mrs. Grammer decided to take in some of the brown babies they met in orphanages across Germany.  Their first adopted child was a ten year old boy.  That boy had friends at the orphanage, who also found a home with the Grammers.  The nuns who ran the orphanages asked them to take more; they went on to adopt eleven more children, including one son who had already been adopted but was returned because he had leukemia.  That child, named Edward, died in 1955 when he was nine years old.  The last child the Grammers took in was Nadja, who was just eight or nine months old in 1962 when she was adopted from a German orphanage.  She grew up to be a physician, the highest ranking black woman in the Army, and the highest ranking woman to ever graduate from the United States Military Academy. 

As if this story wasn’t enough, I learned yesterday through several sources that Mabel Grammer went on to arrange for five hundred “brown babies” to be adopted by black families in the United States.   Since this was occurring during the 1950s and 60s, much of the work to coordinate the adoptions had to be done by mail.  Mrs. Grammer did not use any help from social services, although according to her obituary, Scandinavian Airlines did help fly some of the orphans to the United States. 

I read in another source that although Mrs. Grammer’s incredible efforts were potentially lifesaving for many of the children, they weren’t without controversy.  The babies were being sent to families who didn’t undergo any background checks.  Mrs. Grammer didn’t meet the people who were taking in the brown babies and there were no follow up home visits to make sure the babies were being cared for properly.  Some of the children ended up in abusive situations.  Still, through sheer determination, Mrs. Grammer continued her work and dramatically changed lives for hundreds of people who would have otherwise been brought up in orphanages.  In 1968, Mabel and Oscar Grammer received a humanitarian award from Pope Paul IX, which was presented to them at Fort Myer by one of the pope’s representatives. 

Mrs. Grammer encouraged her own adopted children to forgive their parents for giving them up.  She also encouraged the children to seek out their biological parents.  She explained to her children that they should be grateful to their parents for giving them life and realize that they couldn’t know what difficult choices their mothers faced. 

According to Mrs. Grammer’s obituary, every one of the eleven Grammer children who survived until adulthood went on to make something good of themselves.  Quite a few of them went on to serve in the Armed Forces.  LTG West has said that several of her sisters were “WACs”; that is, they served in the Women’s Army Corps.  Another sister was a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy.   

I am still amazed that I found out about this story by reading a simple article in the Daily Press about Mabel and Oscar Grammer’s youngest daughter, LTG Nadja West, and being curious about where she came from.  I’ll have to do some more reading about brown babies.

A newscast about so-called “brown babies” from Germany.  A documentary about Mischlingskinder is discussed in this newscast.  

Since I’ve found out more about the “brown baby” phenomenon, I see the documentary is being sold through the BRATS Our Journey Home Web site.  I may have to spend some of my husband’s hard earned cash on a couple of new documentaries this weekend.

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Germany, Military, racism

Repost: International collaborations…

I’m sharing this post, originally written on Blogspot on August 5, 2016, because I think it’s a really cool story that is relevant to my experience in Germany. Keep in mind that it appears here as/is, as I am certain General West has moved on from Fort Eustis. I will also share a follow up post written at the same time.

This morning, I was reading the Daily Press, which is the newspaper from my hometown community.  I noticed an article about Lieutenant General Nadja Y. West, who recently gave a speech at Fort Eustis in honor of the 596th Transportation Brigade’s Women’s Equality Day observance.  LTG West is the first black lieutenant general and the highest ranking female to ever graduate from West Point and she once commanded the hospital (now clinic) at Fort Eustis, an Army post that is near and dear to my heart because I grew up nearby.  LTG West is a medical doctor who is currently the surgeon general of the Army.  Her husband is retired COL Donald West.  I see them as quite a power couple!

A video about General Nadja West’s career. I highly recommend watching this video from 2017, which came out after I wrote this post. What a cool lady!

Anyway, as I was listening to LTG West speak on a video that was posted with the article I was reading, I realized that she appeared to be the product of a German and American partnership.  She is clearly biracial and, in fact, has the sort of willowy look of so many German women I’ve seen.  Also, her first name “Nadja” is a very German name.

I went looking to find out what her background is and learned that yes, indeed, her biological parents were a German woman and African American man who was posted to Germany with the Army.  Sadly, LTG West was left orphaned when she was a baby.  At nine months old, she was adopted by Oscar and Mabel Grammer.  Oscar Grammer was a Chief Warrant Officer who worked with the Army in Germany and Mabel Grammer was a civil rights activist and journalist.  The couple adopted twelve interracial children in Germany and arranged for the adoption of 500 more by families in the United States.  LTG West was the youngest of the twelve children adopted by the Grammers.

Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met are biracial.  LTG West is clearly very attractive, but she’s also incredibly accomplished.  I’m sure the people who created her had no idea how far their daughter would eventually go in life. 

Having grown up in the southern United States, I’ve seen my share of racism.  Germany is not immune to racism, although it seems to be directed more toward Middle Eastern people than folks of African descent.  One is much more likely to hear a German disparage someone from Turkey or Syria than a black person.   

German women seem to really be attracted to black men.  In fact, I remember when we moved to North Carolina, one of the movers was a very friendly black guy.  When I mentioned that we’d once lived in Germany, he laughed and said with a big smile, “German women love black men!”  I have since met a number of people who were born to German and African American parents.  In fact, a lot of the people I’ve met have been affiliated with the United States military, especially the Army.  The Army sends a lot more of its people to Germany than the other service branches do.

One of the things I have enjoyed about my years as an “Army wife” is the diversity of people affiliated with the military.  Because servicemembers go all over the world, they often end up in relationships with people from other countries.  Naturally, some places are more represented than others.  For instance, there are a lot of Japanese and Korean women who have married American servicemen (and it is, more often than not, women who marry men, though there are certainly exceptions).  I do know one Dutch guy whose wife is an Air Force officer.  I’ve run into plenty of British folks, a couple of Italians and Greeks, and one or two Portuguese married to Americans, courtesy of the military.  And I have several German friends who married Americans.

Someone has probably already done this, but I think it would be interesting to see the breakdown of international love matches that occur between American servicemembers and host country nationals. Naturally, not all of these “matches” work out.  I have one friend who barely knows her father, a Puerto Rican/African American Army veteran.  She grew up in Germany not really knowing her father, though she did eventually reconcile with him to some extent. 

A lot of people who have no experience with military folks think that they are a bunch of knuckle dragging lunkheads.  What I’ve found is that the military is full of people from diverse backgrounds and many are open-minded and intelligent.  It’s true that a lot of veterans are people who come from small towns without much opportunity.  Many people join the military to escape poverty or bankroll an education.  But then they end up in faraway places where they meet and mingle with the locals.  They collaborate to create another subset of diverse people. 

The same thing happened in my Peace Corps group.  About half a dozen people who went to Armenia with me ended their service married to host country nationals.  Many people think of the Peace Corps as a very liberal group and a lot of Volunteers are pretty liberal.  However, in some ways, the Peace Corps shares some similarities with the military.  It’s very obviously a government agency.  In fact, PCVs even take the same oath military servicemembers do.  I have been surprised to find Bill working with at least one of my former Peace Corps colleagues who went on to work for USAID.

I have an Italian friend who constantly disparages the military.  He thinks it’s full of idiots who just want to destroy the world.  As someone who grew up an Air Force brat and later married an Army officer, I have found that many people with experience in the military are well-traveled and open-minded.  The ones who stay in the military tend to be pretty savvy about world affairs and they often have opinions shaped by real life experiences outside of the United States.  I know a lot of people think the US military should leave foreign postings, but I think these opportunities to live and work abroad are good for American society.  Too many people in the United States never go anywhere and see anything.  At least people in the military get the opportunity to look beyond the borders.

Hanging out on a military base can be an interesting cultural experience.  Hell, just shopping at a commissary stateside is interesting, especially when you walk down the international food aisle.   You’ll find a number of exotic products stocked for the spouses of servicemember Americans who came from somewhere else. 

I think it’s really cool that LTG Nadja West has done so well in her career.  I enjoyed learning about her and would probably find her fascinating to talk to.  She’s quite a role model all women.

ETA:  I just read the obituary for West’s mother,  Mabel Grammer, which I linked to earlier in this post.   I highly recommend reading it if you’re intrigued.  She was clearly an amazing woman.   

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