Chobani Hunt

For well over a year, I’ve enjoyed almost the same breakfast daily.  Strong black coffee. Six-ounces of Vanilla Chobani Greek Yogurt topped with a quarter cup of granola.  Mid-morning I eat two Clementine oranges, a banana, or maybe some grapes. The rest of the day I work to keep a respectable calorie count with other healthy foods.  I drink only non-caloric liquids, coffee, tea, and water – lots of water. I measure and count everything.  It’s a struggle, to be sure, but it’s paid off significantly in smaller clothing sizes, and a smaller, healthier me.  The struggle has been eased because of my morning vanilla Chobani.

A healthy lifestyle is essential for writers.  So much of our time is spent sitting at the computer, recording the voices we hear, telling their tales. While in our creative zone, it’s easy to nibble on one snack after another, to have the M & M’s, Snickers, and ice cream go straight through mouth and belly to our hips.  But somehow I’ve broken that cycle.  By eating better, by walking more, I feel and am healthier.

Enter conflict.  Over the past month I’ve seen a decrease in vanilla Chobani in the stores. Fruit versions are still on the shelves – blueberry, peach, raspberry, mango, strawberry, strawberry-banana, pineapple and more. They even have honey-flavored and plain Chobani. But vanilla, my staple, has dwindled away.  The store manager told me they’re having a shortage due to rising popularity.

On Friday, I searched Chobani’s website.  No mention of any shortage there, just the same silly-cute promos and much valued nutritional data.  In the Contact form, I emailed a message.  “Where’s my vanilla Chobani?” I asked.  Then, worrier that I am, the fears set in.  What if some marketing moron had decided to discontinue it?

I decided to go on a vanilla Chobani hunt.  List of stores in hand, I braved the cold spring drizzles and got into my car.  At each store, I found the same thing…lots of fruit-flavored, just NO VANILLA.  One store posted a sign. “Due to an exceptionally high demand, we are temporarily experiencing shortages of Chobani Greek Yogurt.”  But I saw no shortage of the fruit flavors…just NO VANILLA.

So, I did what any American consumer would do.  I improvised and switched brands.  Dannon has come out with a vanilla variety of Greek Yogurt.  So has Brown Cow, and Cabot.  Prices are comparable. I bought a few of each to try.

When I returned home, I found an annoyingly cheerful email message waiting for me from Chobani.  The young woman told me that business is booming and that their teams are working 24/7 to deliver Chobani.  (I’m truly glad…great product!)  To increase the amount produced, she continued, they’ve become “creative in managing the production of flavors.”  They’re placing greater emphasis on the fruit flavors, “and have limited production on vanilla.” WHAT?  I read on.  “We anticipate refocusing on vanilla at the end of April.”

Well, there’s hope, I guess.

This morning I’ll savor the last of my vanilla Chobani. Tomorrow I’ll begin sampling my non-Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt brands.  I bought enough to last the next two weeks.

Happy and Blessed Easter to all! 

UPDATE: May 1st, 2011 – Still no sign of Vanilla Chobani although the stores’ shelves are filled with every fruit flavor imaginable. Just no vanilla. 😦 I’m adjusting to Dannon & Cabot.  They’re different, but not bad. – DM

UPDATE #2: May 5th, 2011 – Vanilla Chobani returns to eastern Pennsylvania!  🙂

UPDATE #3: September 23rd, 2012 – Vanilla Chobani (and Honey, too) have once again disappeared from the stores.  Chobani – why don’t you listen? If you have to cut a flavor, why Vanilla?  Oikos has come down to a manageable price, and store brands are just as tasty.  At this point I have no problem switching brands.

On the 18th of April…

A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short.                                                                                                          André Maurois

They were married on April 18, 1942.  The United States had been at war since December and he would soon be called to serve as a Naval Officer aboard the U.S.S. Lexington.  During his time in the Pacific he exchanged long letters with his family and with her, the love of his life.  After the war and his return home they settled into suburban life and raised their growing family — two boys, three girls.  He was a Chemical Engineer who loved history and she was a meticulous homemaker and volunteer.  Both remained devoted to church, to family, and to each other.  It was a good marriage, a happy marriage, one with conversations that always seemed too short.

As writers, even as romance writers, we seldom write of marriages such as theirs. Exciting, passion-filled stories are all about conflict that show a struggle between two souls —  man against man, man against nature, or even man against himself.  Perhaps because life is filled with struggle, we long to read about it.  It is the struggle, the conflict that keeps us turning the pages.  What happens next?  How will they possibly resolve this insurmountable problem?

So we fill our stories with conflict.  If she’s a liberal reporter, he’s a conservative landowner.  If she’s a born and bred Texas rancher, he’s a NYC lawyer come South to stir up trouble.  If she’s the daughter of a Saxon King, then he’s a Norman knight granted her father’s castle, and perhaps her, by right of conquest.

Conflict isn’t only created by who the characters are.  It can also develop naturally through the setting.  Several years ago I heard film critic Roger Ebert discuss the amazing popularity of “fish out of water” stories.  At that time, I was reading a lot of time travel stories in which a modern heroine traveled back to an earlier time.  I started analyzing these and other popular stories. Plop a person down in a strange new world and there is instant conflict as she struggles against the unknown.  The story is not in heroine’s undying love for the hero, but in the conflict she must work through to attain that love.

Once the story’s conflict is resolved, the story is over.   The genre doesn’t matter.  Literary fiction ends with a resolution of problems, happy or sad.  Thrillers and mysteries end with the bad guy’s capture.  Romance ends with the concept of And they lived happily ever after.

What of my history-loving naval hero and his happy bride?   Their story endures in the memories and lives of their descendants.  Tomorrow would be their day.

Happy Anniversary, Tom & Betty!  ∞

An Evening with Garrison Keillor

I’m a Garrison Keillor groupie.  So when my youngest son invited me to attend An Evening with Garrison Keillor last Wednesday at the State Theater, I didn’t scream “Yes! Yes! Yes!” with raised and shaking fists as an ordinary wild-eyed groupie might. Instead my soft “I’d love to, dear. How nice of you to ask.  But are you sure…?” was accompanied only by the rapid thumpety-thump of my heart.  As the Midwestern born and bred daughter of Minnesota Lutherans, it was the only response possible.  A Keilloresque response.

My husband first drew me into the magic of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio program when we lived in southern Indiana.  In those days we had only one car, a bronze Chevy Malibu wagon.  No air conditioning, but it had a decent radio.  One evening we came home with the Malibu’s rear filled with bags of groceries, a few pairs of new shoes, and some rambunctious little boys to wear them.  The late spring air hung warm and moist as the car radio broadcast NPR live from St. Paul, Minnesota.  We pulled into the driveway and stopped the car. No one moved to get out, not even our young sons. Instead we sat enchanted by Keillor’s hypnotic voice spinning a tale about the people in Lake Wobegon, “the little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve.”

Through the years, on long road trips we brought along audio tapes of missed programs, Old Sweet Songs, and even How to Talk Minnesotan.

We’ve seen several live Prairie Home Companion performances.  The first was in Philadelphia.  We still laugh about the bull’s horns and large purple cape Keillor donned, his Sons of Knute lodge attire.  We watched the Christmas progam in Bethlehem, enraptured with the sweet sounds of choir music.  Last summer, we traveled to Red Bank, NJ for his Summer Love Tour.  All were radio style variety shows packed with delightful blends of music and commercials for Powder Milk biscuits, with GK and guests performing skits as Guy Noir, Private Eye and cowboys, Dusty and Lefty.  All complete with radio sound effects, of course.

Wednesday evening was different. It was simply An Evening with Garrison Keillor.  Alone.  Just Keillor and the sold-out State Theater audience.  He took us with on a road trip he and his family made when he was 12. Parents and the six kids, Garrison in the middle, driving to Yellowstone.  Somewhere in North Dakota, he became stranded in a gas station. He waited three days for his parents to return, guests of the gas station owners who lived in a tiny trailer and chain-smoked Camels and drank smelly beer.  Thus began his writer’s journey.

From then on, he told us, he wanted to be a writer.  So he went to college and majored in English.  He planned to write the great American novel but, as an English major, he discovered it had already been written. 🙂

Throughout his nearly two-hour performance (no breaks) we listened as story followed story then found its way home. One love affair unveiled another. Audience laughter shook the ceiling.  Listening, laughing, loving the experience, I thought of Mark Twain and how he, too, once shared his gift of spinning yarns in packed theaters.  Brilliant storytellers, the pair.

An amazing evening crowned by a long rambling side-trip back to the much beloved Lake Wobegon where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Thank you, my son!


Worry-Wart

“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” ~ Swedish Proverb

I’m a worrier. I guess I always have been but I don’t think I realized it until a few years ago.

On a visit to Wisconsin, my siblings and I sat talking around the kitchen table one evening when I said something, although just now I can’t quite recall what.  I do remember that, after the chuckles subsided, my older brother said “Well, Deb always has been a worry-wart.”

A hundred-watt bulb lit up over my head. He was right, of course.  (Big brother is nearly always right.) So strange that I never realized the truth of his words until then.  I guess I figured everyone worried about their kids staying out late, and about loved ones driving in bad weather.  Didn’t everyone wonder if they’d turned off the stove before leaving home?  Didn’t everyone fret whether they’d locked the door, and shut the upstairs window?  In the mall parking lot, did I lock the car, or not?  Did I remember to charge my cell phone before I left on a road trip?  Did I bring the car charger?

I’ve generally kept my worry-wart nature hidden.  Few people know about it, except those closest to me.  Oh, and maybe the neighbors who observe my frequent returns to re-check the front door.  And now, those of you who are reading this post.

In her book, HEROES & HEROINES: Sixteen Master Archetypes, author Tami Cowden describes sixteen basic characteristics for heroes and heroines.  There isn’t a worrier among them.  None of my heroines have been worriers either.  I guess worry just isn’t a very heroic quality.

Still, I think it is a trait that might work well with a Nurturer – a mother who worries unduly.  Or a Waif who might worry about how she will find her next meal, even after she wins the lottery.  Or a Crusader who might worry over whether the greedy nuclear plant builders have built in enough safeguards.

Our heroes and heroines must be heroic but they must be real, too. Perfection creates boredom.  Heroes and heroines are more real when they have some inborn less-than-desirable quality to overcome.  Jealous, intolerant, greedy, vengeful, or lacking faith.  And one who, occasionally, worries.

I believe the reverse is true for villains.  Even Hannibal Lecter, among the most chillingly evil of villains, cared for and, in his own way, looked after Clarice.  I’d love to read about a villain who, in addition to his despicable nature, is also honest, caring, generous, or tolerant.  And yes, even one who worries.