Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ramen Noodles, Anyone?

By: L.A. Kohl
January 8, 2007
(published in the Jan. 24, 2007 edition of "The Bullseye")

A short time ago, my husband entered the house and somberly asked, “Where is Jessie?”
Little five-year-old Jessie came running at her father’s mentioning of her name, and he said, “Sit down Jessie…I have some very sad news to tell you.”

I thought, “Oh no, what’d he do…run over one of the cats – or did the cats eat her favorite cardinal?” (Jessie has decided that a cardinal would be a wonderful pet – but as we had to explain that they are a wild bird that wouldn’t like to be caged, she just watches out the window and claims whatever current cardinal she catches a glimpse of as her own.)

No, as it turned out, the news was of an entirely different nature…
“Jessie, I’m very sorry, but I just heard on the radio that the man who created Ramen Noodles died today,” her father stated, while putting is arm around her tiny little shoulders.

Wow, what a blow. Ramen noodles are to Jessie what lobster and a rib eye steak are to many of us – a wonderful treat. Almost all of my children love them, even the nineteen year old…but to Jessie, they are the best, the most wonderful thing that mom could ever fix for her lunch. Unfortunately, mom realizes that they have little nutritional value, and thus refuses to fix them for her more than once a week or so.

She wasn’t too terribly upset by the news – after all, there were packages of Ramen noodles sitting in mom’s pantry, and more to be bought at the store when those were all gobbled up…so what did she really care about the man who invented them?

Some of the rest of us were rather interested in hearing some of the facts, however…and I thought perhaps you would be, too. There are very few of us who haven’t consumed a few packages of those things during our lifetime.

I myself began enjoying them during my short college stint. It was such a simple thing to heat water in the hot pot, dump the package in for three minutes, then drain off the water and stir in that wonderful seasoning packet. Unfortunately, cleaning up the hot pot afterwards was a big pain. (I guess I didn’t own a bowl to dump the noodles into???) On top of that, my room mate had to go and inform me about the extreme amounts of sodium that were in that seasoning packet, and how it would harden our arteries by next month if we kept eating them…and thus, I guess I consumed much less of them than most young adults do.

Which brings up this little tidbit of information…do you know which group of people consume more Ramen noodles than any other group? Graduate students! What other food can you get like a hundred servings of, for the low price of $3.19? And so quick and easy to prepare, as well? It’s like a graduate student’s staple food.

Do you know how long Ramen noodles have been around? (This was a surprise to me.) Their creator, Mr. Momofuku Ando, developed them during the 1950’s, when he decided that an affordable, filling, and easy to prepare food was needed by the poor people of Japan, who were still struggling and diligently working to rebuild their country. Ramen noodles weren’t imported to the United States until 1970; but its worldwide market is now enormous, as a total of 85 billion packages were sold in 2005.
Mr. Ando died on January 5, 2007, at the ripe old age of 96. He claims to have eaten Ramen noodles almost everyday since inventing them in the 1950’s.

Could it be that my room mate was a little overzealous in her artery-hardening claims? Perhaps. So come on, Jessie – let’s go eat some Ramen noodles!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Happy New Year?

By: L.A. Kohl
January 8, 2007
(published in the Jan. 17, 2007 edition of "The Bullseye")

You see it plastered on everything from paper plates to newspaper headlines during this time of year; that little phrase “Happy New Year." But as our family is struggling with some discouraging news at the beginning of our new year, it’s made me stop and think twice; there are no guarantees, are there? Wouldn’t it be nice if saying “Happy New Year” could make it a fact, a done deal…and not just wishful thinking?

Don’t get me wrong – life is good for our immediate complaints. It’s what is happening in our extended family’s…no, more than extended family…extremely close friend’s lives that is so disheartening.

Childhood cancer. The Hallsville community dealt with it over this past year, with little seven year old Timothy Grant. There is not anything remotely “happy” about that, is there? Cancer is an ugly thing, no matter what your age, but childhood cancer just seems the most utterly unfair and despicable of them all.

And thus, as a new year begins, with all of its unknowns and uncertainties…my mind has been full of questions – those “why” kind of questions that everyone asks when life deals you a rotten blow. Why would my daughter’s best friend have to suffer like this? Why, after losing her biological mother to cancer – does this fifteen year old have to suffer through it herself? Why does this family, who has already gone thru so much pain and suffering in their short lifetime – have to go through another struggle like this? It makes a person, even a person with a strong faith, want to cry out and say, “What is going on here, God????”

And that’s the struggle, isn’t it? Not understanding what is going on…wanting to believe that God knows best, and yet not seeing how anything even remotely resembling “best” is taking place. From my little, extremely limited and short viewpoint of life, all I can see right now is “unfair."

In very simplified terms, it’s like when I, as a parent, deny one of my children of something that they think they really want. Every parent has heard their child cry out, “But that’s not fair!” And likewise, God must hear it a million times a day, from His children all over the world, “That’s not fair, God!”
And sometimes, realizing that our small child will never comprehend, no matter how hard we try to explain it, a wise parent’s only explanation is, “Honey, life is not always fair.”

I think at times like this, God is like that…He wants to take us by the hand, and say, “I wish I could fully explain all of the whys and why nots…all of the eternal perspectives that I’m looking at here…but you simply cannot understand all of that right now. You’re just going to have to trust Me on this one, and realize that I never promised you life would be fair.”

And so we try – we try to believe that someday, in eternity, we’ll be able to look back on this short little journey that we called life and say, “Oh, so THAT’S why that happened!”

Until then, we just have to begin each year with our simple little “Happy New Year," and hope and pray for the best. I’ve decided, however, that this year, more than anything else, I want it to be a “Miraculous New Year” for a dear, brave, fifteen year old girl and her very special and supportive family. Here’s to you, Amanda – may this be the most miraculous year of your life!