Gratefulness Is Priceless.

Happy Monday, all!

In case you needed to know, it is 32 days until Christmas…


And if that wasn’t crazy enough…Thanksgiving is THIS WEEK!

Like, how is that even possible?!

I literally can’t handle it.

As we all grasp with the reality that our Thanksgiving holiday celebrations will look different this year, it is impossible for me to not take a few moments to step back and look at the many blessings that I am extremely thankful and grateful for in my life.

As defines it, the word thankful is described as “feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.”

And in my life, I believe gratefulness is priceless.

And while I take the next couple of moments to share with you just a few of the things I’m thankful and grateful for in my life, I encourage you all to do the same.

Some of what I’m about to write in regards to things I’m thankful and grateful for are entities that I’ve shared previously in other blog posts; however, they are such important aspects of my life that I can’t emphasize enough with another share to you all.

I’m thankful and grateful for all of the essential and frontline workers that are fighting the pandemic and working exhausting hours day in and day out to fight what and navigate the waters of what this world is going through.

I’m thankful and grateful for my parents. I’m thankful for them having the courage to sit down and talk with me about my sexuality even though it was an uncomfortable territory at first. I’m thankful for your patience, understanding, and compassion that you have shown me every step of the way and continue to do each day…even throughout a pandemic. Without your guidance, I would not be the man I am today. I would be lost in this world of negativity, hate, and pain if it wasn’t for the constant love that you have used from your souls to raise me on the principles of love and kindness for everyone regardless of religion, social status, ethnicity, politics affiliation, or sexuality. I hope I continue to make you proud as I grow through the years ahead on the paths that await.

Secondly, I want to thank my brother. While you might not have been the most loving sibling to me during our time growing up, I truly wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Even though we may still have fighting battles of words and wit every now and then, you are someone that I look up to and truly admire. You are extremely hard working and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching you mature into a loving husband to Mindy. You may have the brain of smarts, but I have the brain of good fashion sense. Ha!

I’m thankful and grateful for my sister-in-law, Mindy. Mindy–you have brought even more grace, love, and support to our family and we could never thank you enough for that. I have been able to witness you as a hardworking mom who wants to give her family all the best no matter what the cost and that melts my heart. I know you’ve been through some very tough times that have rocked your emotions over the years and seeing how you have come out of those trials even stronger is such beautiful a thing.

I’m thankful and grateful for my niece, Mackenzie. She has brought a whole new level of smiles and innocence to my life that I adore like no other. I can’t wait to continue watching her grow up even though I wish time would slow down! I also can’t wait for all the selfies that await.

I’m thankful and grateful for all of my Singing Lions from my time at Penn State. I’ve said this before, but if I was not a part of your group…your family, I would have left. Thank you for offering an environment where everyone could be themselves without judgment. I truly value the friendships that I have created with you and those friendships are responsible for getting me through some of the toughest moments of my 4 year college life at University Park.

I’m thankful and grateful for my coworkers (at both the full time and part time locations) whom I get the pleasure of being around on the daily. Well, technically, we have not been around each other in person much this year, but the virtual time I’ve had with you has been quite special as well. Thank you for supporting me even through my moments of mistakes and failures. All of you bring so much to the table and have helped me grow emotionally and professionally. I only hope that we continue to push each other in our future growth paths together in making the lives of those we help day in and day out a bit better.

I’m thankful and grateful for all the incredible friends who have supported me throughout my life in different capacities. It doesn’t matter if our paths have crossed for a hot second (literally) in the past, have crossed paths in the present, or will cross paths in the future…each of those moments (or future moments yet to happen) is incredibly special in the evolution of Mr. Sunshine as a human being.

I’m thankful and grateful for Missy, Elyse, and Marissa who had the ability to put up with me for many years during our living arrangements…and what fun we had together! Even during these challenging times, we’ve still managed to find moments to laugh together and have fun. I’m incredibly glad and grateful our paths crossed in this lifetime and that we stay in contact. I also love that we can look back on all the memories we created and laugh hysterically until it hurts. I love that we can use other to vent, offer advice, guidance, or talk about boys. You are definitely three special ladies to me personally even if I don’t always acknowledge it.

I’m thankful and grateful for Abby. She is always so kind and generous to me even in moments when I’m drained and exhausted. I love that we have been able to grow closer over the past couple of years and I know our friendship will grow more and more with each passing year—and even during a pandemic we’ve been able to continue that friendship. Thank you for always offering me advice and kind words at the times when I need to hear them most. Truly a beautiful soul.

I’m thankful and grateful for Ephrata Performing Arts Center and all those I’ve met and had the pleasure of working with over the years. It is so special to me that I have access to a theater so close to home where the feeling of those around you is family. It is a safe place where I can be myself and find joy in the smiles I see on the faces of audience members when under the lights to perform. So many wonderful memories and moments have been created in that space and I know there are more to come. I can’t wait.

I’m thankful and grateful for Hank Angus and those from the Hope Express family that believed in me and helped me to uncover the definition of “being worthy” and keeping my passion with finding a cure for pediatric cancer alive. The kindness and generosity of everyone involved with this organization is immeasurable and I only pray that I can continue to strive and make a difference each day with sharing love and hope with everyone around me and igniting a fire within them to make positive change.

I’m thankful and grateful for the late Pat Kautter who was a true pioneer in the theater world. I was thankful to work with her on a few different shows in multiple capacities at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center. She was always the “theater mom” who encouraged me not to give up, be true to my identity, and give each moment 110%…even if it meant smiling as I tried to fake tap dance!

I’m thankful and grateful for my Grandma Neidermyer who left us back in 2006. More than a decade later, it still feels like yesterday when I was huddled around the bed witnessing your last breaths on this earth with all of the family crying tears of pain. I wasn’t ready for you to leave. Your gentle smile is one that is imprinted in my mind and your presence is one I feel from above, especially in moments when I’m struggling. Each day, I wake up and look at the very last picture we got together at the 2005 high school holiday concert that sits on my dresser. It was such a surprise to see you after the show and the smiles on both of our faces in this image are true joy. A moment I will never forget as long as I live.

I’m thankful and grateful for my personal trainer, Zach Musser. He has helped me stay motivated to better my body and mind physically and mentally. I’ve been seeing him for almost 2 years and I can’t begin to thank him enough for the lifestyle changes that he has helped me create for myself. Even if I give him attitude and sass during our early morning workouts, he never fails to push me harder with his undying encouragement and motivation, especially on those days when I just want to quit.

I’m thankful and grateful for my online health/life coach, Daniel Buckley. I’ve been working with him for about two years now and he has helped me to stay on track with logging my food and making sure that I stick to commitments that ultimately improve the health and longevity of my life. I’m thankful for his weekly check-ins that make me smile and the advice that he has offered me even on non-health related topics. If I ever get to Nashville, we ARE meeting up for a run!

I’m thankful and grateful for my roommate, James Oblak. I’m a firm believer in the fact that everything happens for a reason and James is living proof of that. While this pandemic has uprooted his career in NYC, he found his way to Lancaster and the rest is history. I will be the first to admit that even Mr. Sunshine has struggled amid all the “stuff” happening in our world and the negative entities that are thrown to us on the daily. These times have certainly been challenging and having another individual around me in my living quarters has been a blessing in a disguise. Sometimes, I can forget how important human connection truly is and having the ability to talk (or even not talk) with someone at the end of the day has been so rewarding and helpful for my mental health. I look forward to many more evenings of watching Schitt’s Creek, American Horror Story, The Golden Girls, or whatever else suits our fancy. I also can’t for the next episode of Coffee Talk With James Oblak. You are the best and I hope your stay (and continued stay) at Sunshine Cottage has been worth every minute!

I thankful and grateful for all the jocks and straight boys who got a kick out of making fun of me during the years of my childhood. Because of you, I learned to grow thick skin and realize that I shouldn’t give TWO HOOTS about what others think about me or my sexuality. And even though there are moments (mind you in today’s society…the 21ST CENTURY), that I still get stared at or name called, I often find it a bit more tolerable for me to move on and ignore it because of the harsh words that you threw at me growing up. I want to thank all the guys in my life that have decided that it is better to not tell me the truth up front. Damn it. Just be honest. Don’t tell me that “you are not gay” to only have me find out that you actually are and have a boyfriend. Also, don’t just stop responding if I reach out to you. Like, damn it. Just say “I’m not interested” and be HONEST. Ugh. These are the moments that happen in my life where I find it so hard to trust guys, which continues (and probably always will be) a struggle for me. And while dating is not a priority for me at the present time, these moments are what make it so hard for me to get over the tarnished view of gay men that has been painted in my mind.

I’m thankful and grateful for Pastor Angie and my church family. Pastor Angie has heard it all already from me in the short time I’ve known her and she always has special guidance and wisdom to offer…and a cup of coffee too! She has been thrown quite the task of leading our faith community during such a challenging time and she done more than any of us would have ever expected. While we haven’t been able to gather in person as often as we would’ve liked during this time, she has supported us and gotten us to gather virtually through word, sacrament, and fellowship. I miss my choir so much. I miss being able to sing with my church family. I hope and pray for the day when we can all do that once again.

I’m thankful and grateful for my Tampa coworker, colleague, and friend, Harrison. Time and time again, he has made me laugh with his exceptional wit and sense of humor through video chat while also being able to talk me through my reactive emotions when I’m dealing with tough customers. He has a way with words and has helped me balance of some aspects of the DiSC scale that I’m pretty lackluster with. He deserves an award. If you ever get up here to Lancaster for an in-person visit, I will buy you a cup of Passenger coffee.

I’m thankful and grateful for all my blog post supporters who continue to come back week after week. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing content for you all over these past 2 years and I couldn’t be more humbled by your support, love, and kindness.

I want to thank my bestie, DMH. I know that I’ve said it many times before, but I’m so thankful that you were brought into my life a mere 6 years ago through what is one of the worst phone apps to this day. Our friendship has only gotten stronger since that time. You are one individual that I trust completely, which is hard for me to do these days because of the past I have experienced. Thank you for being a constant in my life amongst a world of change. Thank you for adding extra letters in your texts, never getting mad if I’m having reactive moments of emotion over aspects of my life, allowing me to word vomit in car travels to scary movies, not judging me for wanting to sing Josh Groban’s “Evermore” at the top of my lungs, knowing that sometimes all I need is a night of rummy playing to recharge, and for always being able to bring a smile to my face no matter what the situation. These are priceless things that I cherish greatly (more than you can ever imagine). For these many moments, I will never be able to repay you. I can only hope (well I don’t hope because I know for a fact) that our friendship will only continue to grow stronger as we grow older. . I’m very, very, VERY lucky to know you and have you by my side as a bestie. In today’s society, I think it is extremely important and necessary, especially in the gay community, to have a best friend that involves a platonic relationship. I think it is vital for both personal well being and emotional growth. We share something special and I hope that everyone in the world is jealous of it…because you know what…they should be–what we share as besties is not something many people have in this world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the memories thus far and for the memories that I know are yet to come. While I know this year has been quite different in terms of how often I’ve had to opportunity to see you and hang out, I hope you realize how much of a special individual you are to me and how vital of a role you play in Mr. Sunshine’s daily grind.

I’m thankful and grateful for everyone in life that has been able to look past the walls of judgment our society has built up to realize that I, along with my fellow LGBT brothers and sisters, are human beings full of love to give. We are no different than you. Just because we love someone of the same sex doesn’t mean that we should be called inappropriate names, stared at constantly, or judged because we want to be happy. Quite frankly, I’ve been called the word ‘faggot’ enough in my life. I want anyone in the world who is struggling with their sexuality to know that it will be OK. I know that it can be scary territory to navigate, but I assure you that you are NEVER ALONE. There will always be people around to wrap warmth and support around you in the moments of extreme darkness when you want to give up.

This coming week as we all continue to look toward the celebration of Thanksgiving, let us take a few moments to reflect on the many blessings that we are both thankful and grateful for in our lives.

Gratefulness is priceless.

Sprinkle sunshine always,