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Why birthdays are so meaningful


Birthdays come but once a year,

So we send this message clear;

Happy birthday, “name” dear,

Happy birthday till next year.


This is the second out of three choruses that my family sings to celebrate a beloved birthday recipient. The first chorus (“Happy Birthday to You”) is probably the most recognized song on the planet, but to a visiting guest, the second and third choruses always catch them by surprise.

To me, hearing for the run-on of the birthday song for the first time was kind of like hearing “debtors” as opposed to “trespasses” and the clause, “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, now and forever,” in the Lord’s Prayer. I just hadn’t heard it before, but it was sure catchy, and gave the celebrant a little more time to be serenaded before blowing out their candles.

What is the significance of birthdays anyway?

Mostly, we celebrate people, because we’re thankful they were born; but we also celebrate them, because they’re still alive.

I recently read a sweet story of Lessie Brown, a woman in Ohio who just turned 114. She had two of her children (89 and 90 years old) and some of her 50 descendants present to celebrate her birthday. Born in 1904, she has two great-, great-, great-grandchildren, and is the oldest known person living in the United States. With every day being a gift to the people who love her, they sang her a heartfelt birthday wish.

But some people don’t want to celebrate their own birthdays anymore. So when do we shift from this special day being the most significant, to insignificant?

When a child turns one, it is usually marked by the first and only time they get to do whatever they want to an entire cake. If you’ve ever seen a one-year-old dive into a cake, they are seemingly happy for about the first minute. But then this tactile experience turns into frustration, and they can’t wait to get the icing off of their hands, face and out of their hair.

For many of us, life after 40 becomes a wish that we were 39 again. The older we get, reality starts to settle in on how old we actually are, and birthdays become less significant. It’s usually at the 40th birthday parties where “over the hill” signs and cards begin to appear. But after a certain age, we begin to recognize again that these milestones are worth marking.

Another reason for the shift to insignificance is because as people get to their middle years, they are less focused on themselves, and more focused on celebrating their children and their own parents.

But birthdays are significant, and children always know it. It seems that we’re in a time where kids celebrate their birthday week, and oftentimes the entire month. They know they’re special, and usually what comes with that specialness is gifts and a party.

Around here, the Learning Express has been a lifesaver for moms grabbing that last-minute gift for a party. They have just about every toy you could imagine for a child recipient.

The Little Creperie is another shop that takes advantage of offering help with birthday parties. Their behind-the-scenes “make your own crepe” birthday party is a big hit with children; and it’s nice to keep it local.

We recently sang the “Happy Birthday” song and the two accompanying choruses to my wife’s mom celebrating one of those milestone years. And if you are a guest or the one we’re celebrating, we’ll take a little longer to sing a third chorus to you.

Many more birthdays to you,

Many more birthdays to you;

Many more birthdays to “name;”

Many more birthdays to you!

Road Construction made for a Hollywood Movie

From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier, September 13, 2018

In the mega-hit kid movie about a world populated by anthropomorphic vehicles, the main character Lightning McQueen finds himself sidetracked from training for the championship race, and lost in the small town of Radiator Springs. In a series of unfortunate events, he accidentally destroys the entire street in the one-road town. Consequently, he is ordered by the local judge to fix and pave the town’s main road. Because he was too hurried, McQueen first try at paving turned out shoddy. The judge required him slow down and do it right, so the road would be smooth for the townsfolk.

Well, McQueen didn’t tear up Prospect Avenue in our downtown, or a smattering of streets on the northwest side of town. But if you drive through these areas or live on one of these streets, you most likely needed to slow down and exercise a lot of patience too.

If you reside alongside Oxford, Tuttle, Woodstock, Arthur or Norfolk, you have been living in what looks like a war zone since early March. The village’s special service area (SSA) 31 Road Improvement Program and Water Main Replacement Program is scheduled to finish on October 26.

But it’s construction, so there are always delays. The biggest point of frustration with the families living on these streets is having proper access to their driveways. It was reported that the village began fining the contractor for the delays when residents were kept from entering into their driveway for seven consecutive days.

From my perspective, we found the contractor to be accessible and helpful. My team had three families move out of their home during this mess. It was hard, but they blocked off areas to park the moving truck, and even installed a temporary driveway approach to help make the transition easier.

As far as the Prospect Ave. resurfacing project in downtown Clarendon Hills, it’s almost finished. They tore out the curbs and grinded the surface to make way for a new street and curbs. Hopefully, by print time you will see the second coat of asphalt being laid down for a perfectly smooth street to drive on. By tomorrow, we might even be able to see the newly painted stripes. The last couple of weeks have been challenging for businesses in the downtown area, but it has been worth it.

(Update! It’s now Tuesday and they haven’t laid down that second coat of asphalt so it looks to be a few more days of construction.)

I encourage you take a stroll into the village soon to see the new brick crosswalks, but don’t miss the etched daisy logo in the middle of town – you’ll be impressed.

All of these changes are just a prelude of the improvements that work to fulfill the downtown revitalization project of 2019. Yes, there is always room for improvement, which means more construction. But this next phase will be dramatic (especially to the train station area), which will give our town a facelift that even a Hollywood movie couldn’t achieve.

The clear bright spot from the movie Cars was not only the pride the townsfolk had in their new street, but was all the new friends and community McQueen met along the way. He found a best friend in the tow truck “Mater”, and a new girlfriend Sally (the Porsche), and many others in their friendly little town.

So while you are parking your car a block away, maybe there is a bright spot in all of this construction after all.

The lessons I learned from Football

From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier, August 30, 2018

It’s been a long six months since we saw the last snap taken in Super Bowl 52, when Tom Brady threw that perfect but unsuccessful “Hail Mary” pass to Rob Gronkowski, and into a sea of Eagles hands.

When your kids lay down their fortnight joysticks for their fantasy draft kit, it must be getting closer to fall football – thank goodness, football is finally here!

Hinsdale Central has already played (and won) their first game. The local youth tackle football organization, Hinsdale Falcons, has been practicing for a month now, and also played their first games last weekend.

I have a lot of great memories playing football as a kid.

But the game has changed since I was younger, with rules aimed at player safety. And it certainly has challenges to overcome to keep current, and to convince parents to allow their kids to play.

Yet I know that some of the greatest lessons that have stayed with me throughout my life came from playing football. With all the talk about when younger children should begin to play football (or if at all), I became motivated to jot down and share some of these lessons that I hope my children will take away from the game.

  1. Be yourself. Be the best you can be, but don’t be someone you are not. No one likes a fake. Football exposes fakes and helps kids to find the talent within themselves to help contribute their true self to the team. The position always finds the player, not the other way around. It’s a hard game that demands one to play for the team, not the individual. By being yourself, you become a leader and who you are supposed to be.
  2. Winning is really important, but not at all cost. Don’t cheat; Don’t take shortcuts. Earn what you have. Abide by the rules. I remember vividly my College coach at Indiana, Bill Mallory, making this point in a Sunday night team meeting after a good victory the day before. Coach didn’t like that several players were out past curfew during the school week, so he made it clear by calling out every one of the offenders. Some got a little shaken up (quite literally too) during his rampage. We knew that even the most talented would go home if they broke that rule again. I know to this day that every impressionable young man on the team remembers that night – we referred to it as “Black Sunday”.
  3. Hard work pays off. It starts with attitude -no excuses. I’ve been part of organizations where victories come easy, but they are more meaningful when they require hard work. It’s a telling sign to see boys crying after a game – won or lost – the tears are the evidence of their hard work, their effort and sometimes, the sacrifice that was put into preparation.  
  4. Be loyal. Trust your teammates; build a bond of brothers who will fight for each other in a foxhole. Keep promises; be accountable. Football is a game of trust. Every player has an important part in every single down. If everyone wins their assignment, the play is successful. If one player breaks down, the play could be disastrous. The strong bond of friendship that is forged through teamwork last a lifetime.
  5. Perseverance. Mental toughness, focus, determination and confidence are often developed through difficulties, negative circumstances and obstacles that play out in the game of football. Having perseverance is one of the greatest life lessons we can teach our children.

This is my fourth year coaching Hinsdale Falcons Football, and the last three years, I’ve had two teams, so I could coach both of my boys.

I wanted every opportunity to be alongside them to help teach the important lessons I had the privilege to learn. This year my oldest son is starting defensive end for the freshman team at Hinsdale Central.

It was a long six month without football, but we’re glad it’s back.


Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princess; 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 the area.  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 residents, or maybe a little about history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”.

Mike McCurry has been selling real estate in the western suburbs for over 28 years and his office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at 630-325-2800 or visit his website at


Noah #28 – Hinsdale Falcons


Micah's touchdown 4

Micah’s first touchdown came from a quarterback sack and scoop six on 9/3/18!

Micah DE

Their biggest fan – Abbey

#72 with my dad/coach, circa 1975 North Eastwood Falcons, Indianapolis

From The Archives: The New Kid on The Block

From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier, Originally published in August 2014; updated August 2018

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  (88 in 2018) 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.


Be on the lookout for this family, they’re all over the place. Do something creative for them – make some cookies, take over a dinner while they’re unpacking or invite them over to your backyard for a barbeque. Have your children be on the watch too! Pack an extra snack for the new kid on the block.


That Lincoln Park family went to their first block party this summer and a whole new world of opportunities opened up to them. They found themselves cooking dogs and burgers on a communal grill while the kids participated in the balloon fight (among other games!). At the end of the day, the kids were soaking wet with water and sweat but they were soon after asked to their very first play-date. Mom was happy too because she has found a new network that will help her get through the first week of school.


Bringing home the new puppy

From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier, August 2, 2018

As we’re pulling into Perry Farm Park in Bourbonnais to meet our dog breeder Sabrina, I began to reflect on our journey to dog ownership.

It began a few years ago with a firm, “No!”

Over time, that firmness really never softened, but my wife’s persistence, and children’s determination came to a head, and an announcement at a backyard family barbecue that we put a deposit down on a puppy was the begining to my journey to Bourbonnais.

I realized that they were going to do this with or without me. I have a feeling I’m not alone in the “dragging of one’s feet” department. The stories that I’m hearing from other men around town sound familiar to mine. Some have even imparted words of wisdom about what happens when the honeymoon ends, and their pet is grown. The promises to walk, feed and take care of their pet will be forgotten. They tell me that walking the dog isn’t that bad after all, and that it’s even an enjoyable experience, because that time spent with man’s best friend becomes “our time.”

Now loyal “Talk of the Town” readers know that I am not an animal-hater. Growing up, I 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.

And now you are probably wondering what kind of puppy we picked up in Bourbonnais. I like to call it the “Clarendon Hills breed,” because there are so many of its siblings and the mix of dogs who look similar around town. It’s the distant cousin to the goldendoodle: the Labradoodle.

I’m confident that there are readers who have also visited the Perry Farm Park to pick up their new pet, just like us. I know the Labradoodle isn’t the only breed around town, but it does seem to be a common trend lately.

From my vantage point, I watch the doggies dragging their owners to my office’s front door for their daily treats. Some are mutts, a few are pure breads, but a surprising number are rescue dogs from local shelters. I have heard how the shelter interviews the family to make sure they are a good fit for the pet—not the other way around. It’s a much different experience than buying from a breeder—and very rewarding for both the pet and the new owner.

We are now on day three of owning our new puppy, and we haven’t named her yet. We’ll wait until our family is reunited with my wife and son, when they return from their African mission trip. There are a few names, however, that are being tested by each member of our household. My daughter Abigail likes Rosebud; Elizabeth likes Lucy; my wife and son Micah have thrown in their favorites from Africa: Robi (short for Nairobi) and Kenya. As for my son Noah and I, we like Vike (short for Vikings) and Skol (the war chant for our favorite NFL team). We realize there is no chance our names will make the cut. Noah has opted for Copper, just in case.

It’s now been three sleepless nights up with our little four-legged pet, and we’re becoming fast friends. It’s been quite a journey that started with a “no.” I’m happy for the persistence, because the joy that “puppy” has brought to the McCurry home has been immeasurable. She is so cute, and has a wonderful personality.

I can’t wait for our long walks around the neighborhood, and to introduce her to the cousins.


“Man’s best friend”

My Flip for Africa

From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier, July 19, 2018 

My wife, my son and my mother-in-law are leaving for Africa tomorrow. Their bags are packed, and they will soon board a plane that will carry them for 16 hours. They will work for ten days at two of the schools in the Mathare Valley slums, near the capital city of Nairobi, Kenya. They get a wonderful opportunity to partner and work alongside the teachers at the Navasha and Mathare Mission schools to help educate African students.

In the months leading up to now, we have heard from many people that the experience of going to Africa changes a person’s perspective about what is important. We heard lots of stories of the lovely people there, and about their contagious smiles, their joy—especially that of children living in an environment without what we would consider necessities.

As my family leaves our comfortable home in suburbia, they will enter into a small geographic area (three square miles), that more than a half-million people call home. Many of those homes are about ten square feet, and made from cardboard, tin and mud. Families of eight to ten share this environment, and many sleep on dirt floors. Although the workers won’t be staying in these homes, they’re looking forward to interacting with, and further developing relationships with Africans.

This past springtime, we had the distinct opportunity of hosting Dotun Modupe, one of our church’s mission partners from Christ Church of Oak Brook, who was visiting from Kenya. He stayed in our home, and for many days, we were able to sit around the breakfast table with him, and hear stories about what was going on in his country. As we hung onto Dotun’s words, we became even more excited about supporting him. It certainly made this long-awaited trip more personal and meaningful to all of us.

But I wasn’t going to Africa, and I wanted to do something contribute.

I listened to a speaker the following Sunday morning trying to encourage the audience to believe in their own gifts and talents, and that everyone has something to contribute to the cause. Afterwards, an idea and a question came to my mind: why can’t I find a home that needs some love and attention, and fix it up to donate some of the profits to Africa?

That perfect opportunity came up almost as I was thinking about it. Another realtor listed a property in our neighborhood that had been lived in and cared for by its original owner for over 40 years. But it really did need some serious love and fixing up.

This wild idea that came into my head began to take form, and a vision of making a profit for Africa is now well in the works. A further vision of my children, experiencing my talent while rolling up their own sleeves to work together for a cause, is becoming a reality too. To dream and work alongside my family has been one of my greatest joys.

Just a few weeks into our design-rehab, the transformation is already taking shape. The painters took down enough wallpaper to fill a dumpster, and the original carpeting to the 1970s house is now out. Like an HGTV Fixer-Upper or Flip or Flop episode, timing really is everything, so we’re hoping a new family will love what they see, and soon.


The day has finally come, and a lot of thought has been given to what will be packed in their bags. They will take only the necessities that will be used, because the extra space will occupy room for pencils, extra shoes and anything else that the school or a family in Africa will need. I’m happy that my family will invest in something very meaningful this summer, and realize how to use the talents they have been given, for the good of the cause.

“To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.” –Matt. xxv. 15.


Noah .jpg