Awakenings in the Gulf

loggerhead3_noaaDuring March, the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) begins a new season of mating, and come May nesting begins in earnest. It was previously believed that Loggerhead mother turtles nest on the same beaches but new evidence shows that many lay more than one nest of eggs, and they may travel from 17 to 250 miles between nests. See PLOS ONE online journal. This constitutes a much bigger range to protect than previously thought. Nesting sites also overlap with oil and gas operations and major fishing operations.

Pensacola’s beaches can account for as many as 30 nests in a good season. This is small compared to some areas of the Florida peninsula which counts thousands of nests each season. Yet these nests are part of an ancient annual migration and every nest is protected and tracked by volunteers with the National Park Service at Gulf Islands National Seashore.

See a YouTube video of a Loggerhead mother covering her eggs on Pensacola Beach just before sunrise while a Blue Heron looks on:


Beverly and Jennifer Acierno Special Education Scholarship

Veterans' Day 2013 062In 2010 my sister Beverly Acierno passed away unexpectedly. She had recently retired from the Escambia County Public School District where she served as a Learning Disabilities teacher (the county’s first) and later helped develop and manage the program. For so many years we heard about her students, about her advocacy for students and their families in court, and the trips and presentations she made on behalf of the ECPSD. My family and I met many colleagues at her funeral and listened as they remembered Beverly’s passion for kids. One said, “It’s an end of an era; they just don’t make them that way anymore.”

My Niece, Jennifer Acierno Theisen, spent many of her schools days in the same school building as her mother. They were a pair. Jenny was an excellent student, eventually graduating from Washington High School. She earned a scholarship to Florida State University to study performance art, and later transferred to the University of West Florida, graduating in 1998 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Humanities.

Her mother’s passing was very difficult for Jenny. She decided to “dive” into life. Jenny married and was soon pregnant with twins–born in June of 2012. Then in July of 2013 Jenny passed away suddenly from heart problems. We were left in a state of great loss and bereavement after both mother and daughter left us so unexpectedly.

To honor them my family and I have set up a scholarship at The University of West Florida: the Beverly and Jennifer Acierno Special Education Scholarship. (Scroll down page.) This scholarship will support one or more students in the school of education who meet academic requirements. When possible it will support students studying to work with autistic children.

If you feel inclined to donate something to this scholarship my family thanks you. As little as $5 to $10 can make a huge difference in the lives of deserving students and children they will serve. Please send this link to anyone you know whose was a friend of Jenny or Beverly or who is concerned about children with disabilities, especially the many children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Thanks for helping create a little rainbow for Bev and Jenny. With your help we can build this fund as a legacy to Beverly’s work for kids with disabilities and to Jenny and Robert’s beautiful children.

The Little Things

Meadow GateWhen I was a child there was a special place I sat in a mindless state. I felt the sun on my skin warming it like toast, felt the gentlest breeze play in my golden hair. Often I heard the buzz of gossamer wings as a sturdy blue dragonfly hovered above the quiet surface of “my” pond. My grandmother had created it from an upturned lid she placed under a dripping spigot. Water seeped evenly over its round edges moistening the ground where spearmint thrived. The heavenly scent was respite for a child who spent her childhood on gray military bases where metal, oil, and booming sounds crowded out life generating forces.

The pond sat below a rolling shoulder of red earth and green grasses. It was mowed neatly by my grandfather who maintained his farm with rigor and pride.  It pitched toward a view of a valley, far down to Aunt Kate’s white house and red barn. Around the edge of the valley, rolling emerald hills met a steel track that brought the howling sound of a steam engine several times a day.

Each year my parents brought us back to my grandparents small farm in Tennessee, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Each year my sisters and I filled up with life forces and then flew off to places far and wide inflated by the little things that nourished us on that sacred ground.