The MOREL of the story…Know thy mushrooms!

Over on Instographic, they had THIS to say about mushrooms:

I dedicate today’s infographic to my Great-Aunt Marsha, a mushroom extraordinaire. She can identify any and every type of mushroom she comes across, and is famous in my family for taking us on long mushroom hunting expeditions. We hiked through beautiful green forests in Upstate New York, where Aunt Marsha poked and prodded every friendly fungi she could find. She would scoop them up, insist they were good to eat, and pass them around like an alternative bag of trail mix. She even showed us a particular species that doubled as an artist’s canvas. Marsha picked up a twig and demonstrated that we could etch drawings and words into the caps of these white mushrooms. I think it goes without saying that there is never a dull moment with a mushroom guide around!

Mushroom foraging is a common past time in many parts of the world, but if you’re planning on picking up this hobby, make sure you study your mushrooms. Some can cause permanent organ damage and even death.

And if wild mushroom picking isn’t really your style, head to your local grocery store’s organic food section, or better yet–farmer’s market, and pick up a few of the fungi featured in this lovely infographic. Not only are they delicious, but many varieties have been linked to improved immune systems, healthy weight management, and increased levels of the oh-so-important Vitamin D! [Via]

Okay, that being said, I have a confession about mushrooms…And a bit of warning here…what I am about to tell will shock a few of my readers…especially if they are family, because I have kept this a secret for almost 10 years, but I was poisoned by a mushroom once!

It was the 4th of July weekend, 2004.  I was waiting for some friends to come by and pick me up for the 4th of July celebrations…I was sitting in the front yard, waiting for them, when out of my eye, I spotted what i THOUGHT was a portobello mushroom.  Well, as I woudl find out in the next several hours, it was not.  My friends Ray and Mary and I went to a park with their two cats, Sox and Paulette, and their black Lab, Lucky.  All was going fine until I started eating, and at first, we thought it was a reaction to the hot dogs….but then it was obvious that it was not…I threw up…and threw up several times.  Well, long story short, I got sicker and sicker, and after explaining to Ray and Mary what I did right before they pulled up to the house, it became apparent that I needed further examination, so they rushed me to Broadlawns Hospital, where it was confirmed that I had eaten a white poisonous mushroom that was NOT portobello.  I will never forget how I lie on that bed, vomiting over and over, and at one point, it looked like a scene from “The Exorcist”, complete with projectile vomiting!

So, I spent the next two days at Broadlawns Hospital with a tube stuck up my nose, and crappy bedside nurses!  When it came time for me to go home, the nurse wrote boldly across my dismissal papers….”NO MORE MUSHROOMS!”

Well, a bit overkill, but I have sworn to always double check my mushroom charts before eating anything that I see out in my back yard!


Why I can’t BEAR (Surprise) birthdays!

So, there i was—recently graduated from UNI, and my friends from Campus Bible Fellowship were sticking around for one last bru-haha.  My room mate Chuck came down to the basement of our house and handed me a cake mix box, and asked me if I could bake a cake for our mutual friend, Joy, because Joy was going away in a week.  I said sure, and gave it no thought….

Well, later that night…the cake was baked, and Chuck and whomever else decorated it, and we all gathered at the CBF Greenhouse before heading off to “Joy’s going away party”

Well, everyone got into their cars, and Chuck and I got into Chuck’s car, and we took off for a house that our mutual friend, Pam Olson was house sitting.   Chuck drove every street in Cedar Falls, and some of them, twice, or so it felt!  Well, 45 minutes later, chuck sudenly “remembered” where we were supposed to go, and we ended up at the house.  We entered the house, and I, thinking that the party was for Joy, went up to Joy and started to wish her a fond farewell, when all of a sudden, a group emerged from the kitchen with the cake that I had baked for Joy, and it was all lit up up with the words, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BEAR!”

Pam walks forward with the cake in her outstretched arms, and as she walks forward, the group follow her, and Pam announces, “Hey, Bear—remember that cake that Chuck had you bake for Joy?”

Well, what was supposed to be a surprise party for Joy was just a ruse to get me to bake the cake—a birthday cake for me! The next thing I knew, the room was filled with a chorus of Happy Birthday!

Oh the little rascals!

Well, the evening ended with Pam and Rachel on the steps with me….I need to explain something here—my nick name for Pam and Rachel was Laverne and Shirley because they were room mates all four years of college, and so here we were—wrapping things up, and saying our good ngihts and good byes, and I had Pam in one arm, and Rachel in the other, and I told them, “Now, when I count to three, you two follow my lead, okay?”

I started it off with…One, two, three, four….

“Weren’t you supposed to pick him up??”

My 52nd birthday was two days ago (June 5th) , and all these stories jogged my memory a bit…

It was my tenth birthday, and it was about 6 PM or so….Mom and Dad got a call from Tm, and he told them to make sure that I didn’t eat any supper, and Mom and Dad kept it quiet,  and managed to stall their dinner long enough for Tim to come and pick me up.  I get into the car, and we arrive at The Brown Bottle….Jim and Marty were already seated at the table, and as I sat down, they gave me a replay as well as a confession….

“You were supposed to pick him up!”

“No, You were!”

“No, it was Jim’s job to pick him up!”

Needless to say, what had happened was these three clowns could not decide who was to pick me up, and on their own, each decided that one of the other two  were going to pick me up, then they all arrived at the restaurant, sat down, and all asked the other one where I was, and after playing the blame game for five minutes, Tim politely goes over to the pay phone (This was back in the Ice Age before cell phones, little ones!), runs home in his 1972 Cougar (which was cool as hell to a 10 year old!) …And races back to the Brown Bottle with me in tow.  But hey, it;’s all good—If I recall correctly, I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu, lol!

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well!”

Margaret Mary (Dargan) Meyer 1915-2008

This is my mother, Margaret Mary (Dargan) Meyer.  She was born June 21,1915, and died March 5th, 2008, of Alzheimer’s.  She was 92.  She was born in Riceville, Ia, to Thomas Dargan and Mary Maruska.  Her parents divorced when she was 8 years old, and was sent away to a boarding school, Visitation Academy in Dubuque, Iowa,

Old Cable elevator

Old Cable elevator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and spent her high school years at the Visitation Academy in St Louis, Mo.  Upon gradation, she was offered a full scholarship to Loras Collage, but instead turned it down to assist her family, who got down on their hands and knees to beg for her help.  Times being what they were (It was during the worst part of the Great Depression), she reluctantly accepted their urgent call. In January of 1941, she married Edwin John Meyer,the friend of her brother, Thomas Francis Dargan.  Margaret and Edwin were blessed with seven children, of which six survived.  Teresa Mary, born in November of 1944, Thomas Edwin, born in September of 1946, Timothy John, born in August of 1948, Marley (Pat), born in August of 1951, Martin (Marty) Gregory, born in June of 1953, and (me) Michael Anthony, born in June of 1961.  (A seventh child was stillborn at an unknown date, presumingly between 1949 and 1950).  I rejoice that someday, I’ll when I get to heaven, I’ll finally meet a brother or sister that I never knew!

Mom was known for her quotes that we kids heard ten thousand times, and the one that I remember most was,

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well!”

Others included a quote from Shakespeare, “To thy own self be true!”  And for some odd reason, she loved to quote Betty Davis’  line in “Cabin in the Cotton”….

“I’d love to kiss ya, but I just washed my hair!”

Mom also had some crazy idiosyncrasies like saving envelopes and using them for scratch pads.  i remember looking into “the drawer” in the kitchen (It was a drawer that wasn’t used properly for kitchen items, it was Mom’s junk drawer.  It was well organized…well, sometimes…but it was where Mom kept all of her important items like pencils, erasers, and of course, used envelopes!)  Long before it was chic, Mom got into the habit of recycling tin cans….but she didn’t stop at merely collecting them…she actually went thru the bother of putting them into the dishwasher after taking off the labels and after cleaning out the debris trap, would take the clean cans and flatten them and send them to the tin can box in the basement!  Mom was also a bit nervous and become forgetful…She would run around the house, asking, “MIKE! —Where’s my purse?”  “Where’s my glasses?”   And…we would point to the top of head or under her arm, and inform Mom that her glasses were on top of her head and her purse was already either under her arm or on the kitchen table…Then she would storm out of the house, get into the car and go do her errands, and we would just shake our heads and go about our business at hand.

Throughout her life, Margaret loved to garden and watch nature.  Among her greatest achievements in the garden were her Jackmani Clematises,

and to this day, I can still remember her admonition, “Hot heads and cold feet, and be sure to get the right amount of lime and bone meal!” It is with great joy that even today, 20+ years after the sale of the house in Waterloo, Iowa where Margaret and Edwin spent the majority of their lives together, mom’s clematises are still growing along the east side of the old garage at the end of the property, although, not much else remains of the thousands of dollars of landscaping that they invested into that yard.  Along the east edge of that yard, Mom planted a Doctor’s Wife rose bush (Trust me, you can Google that species all you want, it will not come up in a search but they did exist at one time!) in the late 1960’s.  On time, in the 1980’s, we watered that bush and forgot to turn off the trickle of water that we were watering it with, and in the morning, I stepped outside to the most amazing rose bloom that one could ever get their eyes on—it had measured across approximately 7-8 inches!  In the late 1970’s—about 1978 if I recall correctly—Mom and Dad had a kidney shaped flower bed installed also on the east end of the yard.  I remember that it was the envy of the neighborhood.  After all, it was the east side of Waterloo, and for anyone to spend that kind of money on their yard on the east side was unheard of! I can’t recall all of the plants that were in that garden, but it was the first time I had ever heard of the giant allium, and kinda toward the middle of this garden, mom placed a fountain of St Francis of Assisi—our sister Terry always commented that it looked like St. Francis was taking a leak, LOL!  Other notable plants were the Columbine and the old fashioned bleeding hearts as well as her crocuses and tulips, and on each side of this garden, they planted cedars and in the middle, some big old fur bush that was big and ugly and overgrown by the time that the house sold in 1992.In the NE corner of this garden, Mom planted another type of vinca and pampas grass and in front of that, her peonies…Mom said that peonies were very particular about how they were planted—you dig too deep or too shallow, and they won’t bloom.  Kinda picky for a plant that only stays in bloom for two weeks at the best, don’t you kinda think? And on the north side, along the fence, Mom planted a rose/tulip garden.  I forget which came first—the roses or the tulips, but one died out, and the other replaced it.  For years, Mom had a honeysuckle hedge, but it got wiped out when the witch’s broom infested the plants. On the south side, near the driveway, Mom planted a forsythia bush…originally, this was going to be a hedge, but later mom decided against that.  Those are picky bushes as well…they require a certain amount of snow cover or else they won’t bloom very well, or so they say.  Inside the fenced part of the yard, along the fence, Dad planted rhubarb which he transplanted from his family farm back in Sheffield, Iowa.  This farm had gone to waste years ago, as it was confiscated during the depression.  Mom also had the back and side of the house landscaped, and in the middle of this was the finest specimen of a dogwood bush anyone could ask for, and over behind the house, Mom planted a Japanese Flowering Quince,

which did actually produce some fruit from time to time. Behind he dogwood, Mom had a lovely collection of bearded iris that were stolen by one of my siblings (I won’t say who!)–from one of the local parks in Waterloo.  In the back of the house and almost directly under the peak of the roof, Mom and Dad planted a magnolia tree.  It didn’t do a whole lot for many years, so one year, they got another magnolia and that one was full of blooms!  But the winter wasn’t very kind to that magnolia and in the spring, the younger magnolia died, and removed and in its place, Mom planted chives, which were the attraction for many a grand child (Especially Tim and Kathy’s boys who lived two blocks away)Well, as fate would have it, the older magnolia apparently saw what happened to its younger companion and decided to straighten up, or be chopped down as well!  So, in the years that followed, the older magnolia sprung up like a weed, and so much so that it began to bloom twice a year! To the south, on the wall of the old crooked white garage that the prior owners, the Van Nices built,  Mom had planted her hostas, and in front of her hostas, in a vee shaped area, she planted vinca and moss roses, and above the hostas, in front of the old boarded up windows which were painted white, Mom hung an 8 foot long window box, and every year, you could count on mom planting pansies, geraniums, asparagus fern and some vine whose name escapes me, and some times, some begonias.   On the West border of the property, Mom and Dad planted six Lombardy Poplars and planted three on the East side as well.  Mom was kinda eccentric and one year, because they were not of  even height, she ripped them all out and started over with 9 new ones!  Margaret also loved the cardinals, and thru keen observation, I was able to discern 3 or 4 distinct calls of the American Cardinal male. But mom’s favorite “pet” were the squirrels—she named all of them “Sammy”!

Our schnauzer, Katie love to chase after”Sammy”.  In fact, she was so smart, she picked up on who “Sammy” was.  All you had to do was mention the name, “Sammy”, and she would go to the window and go nuts!