Harvest – “Talk Of The Town”


From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier – October 2, 2014

 

Noah could barely contain his excitement as another tote full of fall decorations was opened. His heart fell a bit, though, when he saw its contents: candy corn lights, ceramic pumpkins and maple leaf garland. Being that it was nearly October, my son’s sights were set on far more exciting fare: skeletons, spiders and goblins! Sadly, Mom said that he would need to wait awhile; the Halloween tote only comes out after the first of October. Halloween has its time, but in our house, the theme of late September is “Harvest.”

Wanting to get in the spirit of the season, I recently walked out to our front stoop to admire the harvest display that my wife had assembled. Of course, this same display had been the source of much consternation when I discovered how much she’d spent on it … but I couldn’t complain. The beautiful variety of pumpkins, gourds and seasonal vegetables she had put together was a perfect symbol of the season’s hearty bounty.

Standing on the stoop, I could tell we weren’t the only ones who felt that way; the “bounty” had been almost entirely devoured by squirrels! There are many things I enjoy about the harvest season, but the sad sight of those chewed-out gourds (and the expensive mess I’d now have to clean up) was a quick reminder of the many things I don’t!

Cleaning out gutters, for instance, is one of my fall pet peeves. The dreaded task of climbing a ladder on a chilly day to scoop cold, wet leaves into a bucket may be necessary preparation for winter, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! And speaking of winter, anyone who’s been trapped in his driveway after the first December blizzard can tell you that the best time to get the snowblower in working order is actually mid-fall.

I’m also not a fan of ripping out all the annuals and vegetable gardens at the end of their summery lives. And raking leaves is nobody’s favorite chore! (At least Clarendon Hills makes disposing of them relatively easy; there’s no sticker needed for lawn refuse pickup in October.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I may seem like a grumpy homeowner who sees fall as nothing more than a long list of outdoor chores. (If I were, I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one!) But in my mind, the harvest season goes far beyond that.

The real magic of this season is apparent in the name itself: harvest! We suburbanites may not think about fall as a time to reap what we’ve sown, but our midwestern farming ancestors certainly did. After a long year of working hard to till fields and plant seeds, they saw fall as the time to reap all the rewards of their labors, cutting the grains and crops and preparing the soil for the next season. Then, with the hard work finished and their food source secured, they could finally relax.

With that in mind, I like to think of fall as a time to slow down, look back on the hard work and busyness of the summer and begin preparation for the good times ahead. A bulk of the work has been completed and we can now prepare for the holidays, spring vacations and the coming year. It’s a time of reflection, relaxation and plans for a fresh start. (How appropriate that it’s also time to plant the bulbs for spring blooming seasons, including one of my favorites: the tulip!)

How about you? Is this your season for slowing down? There are plenty of Harvest Festivals going on throughout the burbs to get you into the mood — including some that feature local craft brews! (Now there’s a part of Harvest I love!)

As for our house: October finally came, and the spooky stuff flew out of that Halloween tote quicker than you could say “Ghost stories!” Noah remembered why he liked this particular bag: it contained an electric skull with dry ice smoke oozing from the eye sockets and a furry, window-sized spider that shakes and gyrates with an obnoxious human laugh.

Harvest may have only just arrived … but the next holiday is already around the corner.

Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”. Mike McCurry’s office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at mikemccurryhomesblog.wordpress.com 630-325-2800 or visit his website at www.mmccurry.com

#ClarendonHillsRocks

 

Ghourds on my stoop!

Ghourds on my stoop!

Hugo the pumkin - in front of The Daily Scoop

Hugo the pumkin – in front of The Daily Scoop

Indian Princesses and the Snake Dance “Talk Of The Town”


From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier – October 2, 2014

As the sun turned dark orange and slowly made its short, final approach toward the horizon, the rhythmic beating of a drum could be heard echoing throughout the campground. As the sound drew nearer, you could almost taste the smoke swirling in the air, wafting from torches held by men in Indian headdresses. When the chiefs and each of their tribes approached our campsite, the chants began to match the beat, competing with each other to be heard.

At long last, the procession arrived at our site and the drummer pounded one strong, final beat, sending the crowd into a sharp silence. Then, after a tense pause, the Nation’s Chief shouted, “How-How!” The processional — the Nation — responded with a resounding, “How-How!” Then, silence befell the many fathers and daughters that composed the Indian Princesses.

The Yomechas Indian Guides and Princesses is a group of parents and children from all over the western suburbs, created to foster understanding and companionship between the two ages. Along with a host of events throughout the year, the group also goes on three camping retreats annually. At this particular retreat — the fall weekend camp — fathers and daughters from all over the Western suburbs enjoy a packed Saturday of exciting activities like archery, horseback riding and crafts.

One of my favorite memories from this fall retreat is resting on a grassy knoll with Abbey, my oldest daughter. After a full morning of fun that included sliding down “the Black Hole” (an underground corrugated pipe) countless times on a plastic sled, Abby had decided that it would be most comfortable to lay directly on top of me while we both stared up at the sky. The back of her head rested comfortably on my chest for over an hour that afternoon as we quietly took in God’s creation and simply slept. It was a treasured moment with my daughter that I’ll never forget.

There were no signs of that sleepy relaxation now, however. Having answered the Chief’s “How-How,” the princesses and their fathers stood with rapt attention as he lifted his torch to light our camp’s torch as a sign that we were invited to join the nation. Soon, our camp’s unique chant joined the others in rhythmical solidarity.

“We are the Blackhawks, the mighty mighty Blackhawks! Everywhere we go … people want to know!” Though each camp’s chant was different, they flowed together beautifully as the whole nation marched to the Snake Dance.

The Snake Dance is a ceremony that begins with a huge bonfire ignited by the combined torches of the tribal chiefs. The ceremony usually consist of several elements: reciting the dads’ and daughters’ “Friends Forever” creed, the telling of a fabulous nature story and many “repeat after me” songs led by the camp counselors.

While the Snake Dance is a sacred, meaningful experience, it’s the time afterwards that has become the subject of a fair amount of rumor among the mothers and wives back home.  I suppose it’s no surprise, given the fact that there is sometimes a sip of something or a peace pipe passed around the fire, that this bonding time has come to be seen by the women as a raucous party fest.

But these rumors are unfounded. While the girls enjoy some ice cream and energetic free play time, the dads usually fire up the grill for some after-dinner barbecue and fellowship. One of the dads is a skilled smoker of ribs, brisket and other delectable proteins, which another brings an assortment of meats that he slices with a pocket knife or other (very un-gourmet) utensil. Given the caliber of the food — which is raised each year as the dads strive to share their new talents with the group — a more accurate description of this gathering would be “fireside foodie fest.”

In the end, the campfire is as much a bonding time for the “braves” as it is for the princesses. It’s a time for fathers, coaches, coworkers and neighbors to come together around the fire and grow their relationships. As the ribs slowly take on the rich, smoky flavor of the fire, so too do old friendships grow richer and new ones get formed. For daughters and fathers alike, the Indian Princesses is a special community, and the campfire is a sacred place.

Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”. Mike McCurry’s office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at mikemccurryhomesblog.wordpress.com 630-325-2800 or visit his website at www.mmccurry.com

#ClarendonHillsRocks

 

Camp Tecumseh

Camp Tecumseh – HOW-HOW!

Camp Tecumseh

Camp Tecumseh

Snake Dance

Snake Dance

Blackhawck Tribe Fall 2013

Blackhawck Tribe Fall 2013

The Wall! Abigail

The Wall! Abigail

Micah at Indian Guides

Micah at Indian Guides

Noah at Indian Guides

Noah at Indian Guides

Micah and his horse

Micah and his horse

Abbey on her horse!

Abbey on her horse!

Elizabeth on her horse!

Elizabeth on her horse!

When I think of Football “Talk Of The Town”


When I Think of Football

One of the greatest pressures on high school students these days is the pressure to be fashionable. Wanting to be cool is a very compelling motive for teens, and that phenomenon extends to the football field, where even style is competitive. At schools around here, the place where style and sports meet is the football helmet.

One Downers Grove North football player, Cole, was recently trying to decide whether to use his hard-earned money to purchase a new helmet. He knew that a new helmet would be well-received by his teammates. Although the concussion issue played some role (so many parents have been on high alert lately that any new product claiming to lower the risk of serious head injury might be a good investment), he knew that he probably didn’t need one; he just wanted one.

Cole was still feeling a little conflicted about the decision when his mom heard a helmet was going to be delivered to their house. But this helmet wasn’t like the one Cole had been considering. It wasn’t a particularly popular helmet; in fact, it was a bit of a relic. It wasn’t a new, fashionable one that would catapult him into the in-crowd … but it was special. Indeed, this particular helmet held special significance even for me.

After graduating college, I arrived in Chicago for my first job: coaching football and track and field at Hinsdale Central High School. In my mind, it was sort of a stepping stone in finding my way to play three more seasons of my chosen sport.

In those days, the head coach and athletic director at Hinsdale Central was Gene Strode. Coach Strode put me in with the sophomores and under the wing of a big man: Bill Huskisson. Bill and I became fast buddies, finding time between practices to work out and push the limits of the weights that the gym had accumulated. Because I was the new man on campus, Bill (or “Husk,” as we called him) had to show me how it was done. Of course, he knew how it was done; in his day, Husk was a two-time All-Conference at Hinsdale Central. He was an All-American at Western Illinois, he had earned a place in the Athletics Hall of Fame and he had several touches as a pro.

In the gym that year, Husk and I spent hours upon hours training together. But what I eventually found out is that we weren’t just gym partners. He was actually coaching me … both as an athlete and as a man.

Husk was a champion for people. Many knew him for his passion for the underdogs and the children who required a little more help. He wasn’t flashy, and he didn’t buy into trying to be popular (although thanks to his kind demeanor, he certainly was). He was a gentle giant with a big heart.

Bill and I became exceedingly close; probably closer than people usually get. Toward the end of his life, Bill and two other of my close friends formed a tight cord. It was a bond of Christian fellowship that turned into a lifeline for all of us.

Bill fought cancer for several years until his death in 2006. But to this day, when I think of football, I always think about my friend Husk.

As for the helmet delivered to Cole’s house: that helmet sat on the desk of a coach of the Chicago Fire football team for years. It was a fixture in his family’s home until someone noticed a piece of tape on the inside with a name on it. The name: “Bill Huskisson.”

Bill’s twins, Cole and Brock, have always wanted their father to speak to them after his death. This time, Cole heard his dad’s voice loud and clear. The money Cole had saved would not go to a fashionable new helmet. He decided that the one that his school team had provided would be fine, because he knew that’s what his dad would have done.

There are a lot of big men in football. But Husk wasn’t just a big man … he was a legend.

“It’s a great day to be a Red Devil!”

Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”. Mike McCurry’s office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at mikemccurryhomesblog.wordpress.com 630-325-2800 or visit his website at www.mmccurry.com

 

Mike Stevens, Bill Huskisson, Mike McCurry

Mike Stevens, Bill Huskisson, Mike McCurry

Bill Huskisson

Bill Huskisson

Bill Huskisson

Bill Huskisson

Dogs in the hood – “Talk Of The Town”


From Mike McCurry’s column in The Clarendon Courier September 4, 2014

It was a chilly weekday morning, and a few children were once again trudging their way to school. But their journey paused as they reached a hanging footbridge and a skinny little dog came running up from behind. A born performer, Snoopy had decided to impress the children by crossing the creek with them — not on the bridge, but on a narrow, elevated sewer pipe! Her little paws pitter-pattered dangerously on the pipe as she fearlessly scampered across. And when she reached the other side, the children exploded with laughter as Snoopy jumped in the air, acknowledging their applause for her high-wire act.

While there aren’t many dogs as talented as Snoopy, on any given day in Clarendon Hills, I see countless people walking their dogs by — and sometimes to — my office. These canine visitors aren’t interested in the local real estate market, and I don’t think they’re there to sniff out which other dogs have “visited” the tree out front. I’m pretty sure that they all stop by for the special cookie treats we keep in my office. Indeed, some dogs won’t leave until we open the door and give them one!

Joey, the yellow lab, gets his treats tossed in the air because one might lose a finger feeding him! He doesn’t seem to mind, though, because he inhales them faster than he can chew them. Frankie the weiner dog is a little harder to notice standing outside of our door; his legs are only six inches long, and he is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen! Then there’s Stella, the bulldog I often bump into at Starbucks in the morning. Stella’s owner usually has to drag her away because she loves being petted by the friendly “coffee hounds” outside. Have you ever seen a bulldog being dragged? Caffeinated or not, that’s a sight that will make you chuckle.

Given the many pooches I see on a daily basis, I figured I didn’t need a dog at home — especially knowing how crazy our home is! Anyone who’s seen four McCurry kids in action would agree that getting a dog would be like adding a tornado to a hurricane. So you can imagine my surprise when my mother-in-law asked me a loaded question in front of the whole clan: “Don’t you want a dog for your family?”

Cutting through the excitement with what I considered a much-needed voice of reason, I provided a stern, fatherly “No!” So of course, a couple weeks later my in-laws brought home a labradoodle puppy.

Our house is now part of the family dog-share program. We get the furry and cuddly Gibbs when my in-laws are out of town or when my children need him, which is often. He has a wonderful temperament, is gentle with our children and loves to follow us around. We couldn’t be happier. We simply can’t get enough of Gibbs!

Given my reluctance to buying a pet, people were actually beginning to think that I was a dog-hater. But in truth, Gibbs is one in a long line of pets that have enriched my life. Growing up, my family had a hound named T-Bone, Chrissie the teacup poodle, Rusty the Irish setter and Jill the dalmatian. As for cats, we had Mittens, Jubes and Suckles. We also had lots of fish, several reptiles … and a tarantula spider while I was in college! One would think we ran a pet shop!

My family really embraced having pets. They were all very special to us, and they were all members of our family. A secondary benefit was that they helped foster social, emotional and cognitive development in my siblings and me. (With that many pets, we must have needed the development!) Today, I harbor the same love for our furry friends that I did as a child. The pets we see in our community and the dog we share our home with are endless sources of unpredictable, spontaneous fun. They are laughter and joy on four legs … they are walking, barking bundles of unconditional love.

That was certainly true of Snoopy, who truly had a heart for making me laugh. She loved to follow me everywhere, but when we reached my elementary school that morning, I told Snoopy to go back home and she did. Sadly, it’s been many years since I’ve applauded my childhood best friend and her many tricks. But to this day, thinking of her still makes me smile.

Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”. Mike McCurry’s office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at mikemccurryhomesblog.wordpress.com 630-325-2800 or visit his website at www.mmccurry.com

Snoopy and my sister Jonna 1971

Snoopy and my sister Jonna 1971

Gibbs

Gibbs

Gibbs

Gibbs

T-Bone and my brother Scott

T-Bone and my brother Scott

Mark Winders and Clancy

Mark Winders and Clancy

Carol and Clancy

Carol and Clancy

Clancy and Santa

Clancy and Santa

#ClarendonHillsRocks #HomeRocks #CBRocks

Clarendon Hills library and CH CO2 brings environmental education to the community


CH CO2 Lecture Series

The library and CH CO2, a non-profit organization supporting the community of Clarendon Hills with environmental education, hope that you can attend the following green programs:

 

Saturday, September 27, 10 am  Flooding Modeling

Moira Zellner, a Research Associate Professor in the Institute of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Illinois in Chicago, will share her work on how people can use simple simulations to collectively figure out how green infrastructure can help mitigate neighborhood flooding.

 

Saturday, November 8, 10 am  Greening Your Home

Kay McKeen from SCARCE will cover the basics of making your home life greener – including tips on reducing waste, green shopping, energy conservation, recycling and greener/safer cleaning.

 

Saturday, Novmber 15, 2 pm  Conservation@Home

Jan Roehll from The Conservation Foundation will share how you can support the health of our environment through the use of native plants, rain barrels and rain gardens.  Also, you will learn how native plants attract birds and butterflies, reduce  stormwater runoff and cleanse water flowing back into our rivers and streams.

 

Please register for each program individually by calling 630-323-8188 or registering online at www.clarendonhillslibrary.org.

#ClarenodonHillsRocks

The New Kid on the Block – “Talk Of The Town”


From Mike McCurry’s column in The Clarendon Courier August 21, 2014

No doubt about it: the move out of Lincoln Park was difficult. But for this family of five, packing up and leaving a beloved city home was not quite as difficult as the new challenge facing them: fitting into a new and very different community. With three children starting school in the fall (twins in kindergarten and one in preschool), the parents of this newly suburban clan had a laundry list of fresh concerns — all before they’d even unpacked their boxes!

Although Mom knew a college friend who moved to Clarendon Hills three years ago and therefore enjoyed some “insider scoop,” she still had so many questions. Thankfully, Mom found and joined the Clarendon Hills Moms email list and was able to survey her newfound friends for their advice … but she still had some doubts.

Which preschool should their four-year-old attend? Celebration? Notre Dame? Montessori? There was talk about the elementary school adding another kindergarten class. Did this mean that her kids wouldn’t experience “the” teacher who had such a following and came with so much praise? What would the first day of school look like? What should they wear? Did all the parents walk their kids to school? Would there be other new children in the kids’ classes? Would her kids fit in?

The fear of not knowing was welling up inside of these parents, and they are not alone. These scenarios and questions are going through the minds of a lot of new residents this year. If you haven’t noticed a lot of new faces in town, your children certainly will on their first day of school! We are truly blessed that our schools are so highly regarded and that so many families want their children to attend them. There is an unprecedented number of families moving into our neighborhoods this year, and our schools are one of the driving forces behind that trend. In fact, there have been over 71 homes sold in Clarendon Hills this year to date!

Of course, not all of these homes were sold to new families; many moved within the village to a larger home or downsized to a smaller home. Still, many families are moving here from out of town, and while one perk of the move is the schools, there’s another well-talked-about ingredient playing its role in the mix: our small-town charm.

What is it about our town that makes it charming? Is it the size of the buildings and the “hamlet” feeling of the neighborhoods? Is it the types of businesses downtown? Is it the winding streets or the well-manicured yards?

Many believe it’s much more than that — that it’s the people within the community that make it charming. There is just something different about folks in Clarendon Hills. I have heard it said, “Clarendon Hills isn’t about keeping up with the Joneses.” I’ve heard people like our village because “modesty is better than pretentiousness.” Clarendon Hills has a realness to it that is hard to describe. One thing is for sure: it is a friendly place where you’ll want to get connected socially, and you’ll soon feel right at home.

 

Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”. Mike McCurry’s office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at mikemccurryhomesblog.wordpress.com 630-325-2800 or visit his website at www.mmccurry.com

#ClarendonHillsRocks #HomeRocks #CBRocks

Westmont High School projects highest graduation rate in 10 years


QUOTE

Westmont High School projects highest graduation rate in 10 years

Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 11:49 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 11:55 a.m. CDT

WESTMONT – Westmont High school is projected to soon record the highest graduation rate in 10 years, according to Community Unit School District 201 officials.

About 99.2 percent of the 2014 class are expected to graduate from the high school, which held its commencement ceremony May 27, CUSD 201 Superintendent Kevin Carey said.

The 2014 graduation rate is a 5.5 percent increase from 2013, when total was 93.7 percent. Overall, this year’s graduation rate is about an 8 percent increase from the 10-year average of 91.42 percent, according to Carey, who added that the official graduation rate will be released on June 19.

While the increase is dramatic, Carey said totals are usually on par with projections, and he expects that a majority of the graduating class will attend four or two year college or university, while some students will join the military, attend a tech school or enter the work force.

“A 99 percent graduation rate is definitely great news,” Carey said. “One of the high school’s goals was to increase graduation rates, so this is a testament to the high school students, staff and administration.

“When you have an entire high school community focused on a goal, there is a higher chance of achieving it. I think the goals set by principal [Jack] Baldermann have been clearly communicated to the students and teachers are doing a fantastic job of working with students and parents to achieve these goals.”

Part of the short and long term goals that Westmont High School administration has set involves increasing “rigor,” especially in the literacy department.

Additionally the high school teachers continued meeting regularly during “professional learning communities” gatherings, in which teachers of similar disciplines meet and discuss the educational needs of students. The professional learning community gathering helped formulate across the board “exit outcomes” for each grade level, Carey said.

Carey also credits the work of Westmont High School Principal Jack Balderman, who completed his second year as leader of the school.

“Jack is somebody who is passionate, energetic and he believes strongly in the staff,” Carey said. ” He has brought a positive climate to the building. He is also creative in coming up with different strategies to support, assist and push the students. His vision is so positive and I think it has helped us see positive changes.”

______

Westmont High School graduation rate for the previous 10 years 2004 92.3 percent 2005 93.1 percent 2006 91.2 percent 2007 91.6 percent 2008 94.7 percent 2009 93.3 percent 2010 89.9 percent 2011 84.3 percent 2012 90.1 percent 2013 93.7 percent

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