Thankful & Grateful For…

Well, hi there folks and happy Monday!

I hope all of you were able to enjoy and relax for the Thanksgiving holiday! Isn’t it crazy that it already has come and gone?!

Oh, and in case you needed to know, it is 26 days until Christmas…


Like, how is that even possible?!

I literally can’t handle it.

Anyhoo, just a few days ago we were able to take time to stuff our faces with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (literally ALL the mashed potatoes), cranberry sauce (the jellied kind), corn, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and whatever other delicious dishes we all partake in as we celebrate the traditions of the season with our family, friends, and loved ones.

And one of the things that this holiday is built upon is the simple notion of being thankful.

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

And in my life, I believe feeling or expressing gratitude, being appreciative, and being thankful are all priceless.

And while I will 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.

And not just today…we should be doing these things every single day.

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. It’s hard to believe that we have been experiencing this for almost two years now. And I don’t think the amount of exhaustion people are feeling from what the world is experiencing can be written into words.

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. You have been huge supporters and encouragers this year especially with my Miles 4 Smiles Campaign and that is something I can’t possibly even begin to write about in expression of how grateful I am for that. 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.

I’m thankful and grateful for 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. It also warms my heart seeing you be a wonderful father to both Mackenzie and Ellie. 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. And every time I get to see you interact with your girls, Mackenzie and Ellie, it brings a big smile to my face.

I’m thankful and grateful for my two nieces, Mackenzie and Ellie. They both have brought a whole new level of smiles and innocence to my life that I adore like no other. I have found my inner child getting to build Legos with Mackenzie on the weekly, coloring, playing hide and sneak or whatever other games she wants to play is just so fun! And getting to hold Ellie and hear her cute, baby sniffles and breathing make the inner soul soar with love. I can’t wait to continue watching them grow up even though I wish time would slow down! I’m also secretly excited for Uncle JP selfies with them both.

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. While I continue to navigate the virtual work world (which I have struggled with this year and still have my moments), I’m thankful that each and every one of you is always happy to lend a listening ear or offer a piece of advice or guidance in regards to anything that I’m struggling with. 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. The future growth that we are continuing to see in the new year (and next 5 years) is only going to present so many more wonderful opportunities for each of us to try new things and make history!

I’m thankful and grateful for both Melanie and Christine who have been my in-person office cubicle ladies since June. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know both of you on a more personal level as we have shared many fun moments, personal stories, and supported each other in both our personal and work lives. I’m excited to share 2022 with you gals as we keep our in-person antics going.

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 Marissa. She has been with me since the beginning (literally) when we grew up as daycare buddies. We have only strengthened our friendship over the years and I can’t thank you enough for always being there to offer your ear for a vent session and advice on whatever I might bring to you. I love that we have our Saturday evening traditions of scary movies, Domino’s pizza, games, or whatever else we decide to pass the time. You are always in my corner and I appreciate that more than you can imagine. I look forward to all the carbs, laughs, and scary movies that await in 2022.

I’m thankful and grateful for Abby. She is kind, generous, and compassionate. I’m grateful for the fact that we can just sit on the couch, put on a Disney princess movie, and have the best time watching. When I’m with you, I always know that I will be laughing and having a good time regardless of what we end up doing. Thank you for being a sounding board when I have moments of word vomit.

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. This year, performing Something Rotten after a year without live performances was an amazing feeling and it brought me right back to the feeling of how much I appreciate a creative outlet to make people happy so close to home.

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 4 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. 2022 is going to be a BIG year for my fitness goals, so I hope you are ready to help me get my body looking like Gregg Sulkin.

I’m thankful and grateful for my online health/life coach, Daniel Buckley. He seems to have come into my life at just the right moment. We have been working together now for about 3 years. He always is encouraging and motivating during his check-ins with me to make sure that I’m staying on track with my food logging and daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly commitments and goals that I have created for myself. He has the best smile and the energy that exudes from his voice is refreshing and invigorating. We have both been able to support each other in our personal lives and struggles as we offered guidance and words of wisdom over our time of knowing each other, which is even more impressive considering we live in different states. Get ready, Daniel! When I come visit Nashville, I’m making you run with me for at least a mile. No excuses.

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’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. Her tenacity and strength is unparallel to anyone I’ve ever met, especially at times when she is going through some personal struggles. She has continued to challenge our entire church community to do better for the community and to offer up our gifts to make change in the world for the better. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the community at St. Paul Penryn in 2022 because we are unstoppable and a force to reckon with. And, in case you need a new community to worship with or feel fulfilled and included, we welcome ALL, so check us out.

I’m thankful and grateful for my Tampa coworker, colleague, and friend, Harrison. 2021 has been no different with him always sweeping in with his exceptional with and humor at the times that I need it most when I’m going crazy and struggling. He always offers a perspective in order to make me step back and think so as to make sure I’m not always acting upon emotions. He also always is there to offer advice for a good, upbeat song to help make the day go by even faster. I was lucky enough to meet him in person (finally) this year during his first of two visits to Lancaster and it was wonderful! He is a wonderful human that I’m glad God put in my life.

I’m thankful and grateful for Handsome Jed. While he is someone who is newer to my circle of friends, he feels like he has been a friend forever. He is warm, kind, compassionate, and every adjective in between. He challenges me, holds me accountable, and supports all of my endeavors. He is always the first person to offer a helping hand no matter what the circumstance. He is a blessing to everyone he encounters and I couldn’t be more thankful for the fact that he is part of my Lancaster family.

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 3 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 7 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 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. It has been wonderful seeing you take on your dream of interior design this year after finally taking a plunge! I’m excited to see what the future holds in store for you with that career and when you start your own business, I call dibs on being the Administrative Assistant. I’m looking forward to seeing you splash Sunshine Cottage with some of your creativity energy with the projects and budget I gave you! I’m also looking forward to starting off 2022 with our bestie trip to Las Vegas for Katy Perry. 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.

I’m thankful and grateful for ALL of the individuals from ALL over the world who have supported me financially, emotionally, and physically during this year’s Miles 4 Smiles campaign. I have never done something as crazy as this undertaking and there have definitely been moments throughout the year where I have thought to myself that I’m not going to be able to hit these ambitious goals. But somehow, through the love and support of YOU, I sit here within reach of BOTH my running and monetary goals for this year’s mission in support of The Conner M. Holland Foundation.

So, please remember to continue taking moments out of every single day for reflections on the many blessings that you are both thankful and grateful in your life.

Because I believe feeling or expressing gratitude, being appreciative, and being thankful are all priceless.

And we could all use a bit more priceless thankfulness in our lives.

Sprinkle sunshine always,