Do you remember the moment in your life where you looked around at all the amazing people, experiences, and abilities that you have been given and thought “Wow, is this really my life? What did I do to deserve such an abundance of blessings and love?” The answer is simple; I didn’t do anything to deserve it. God provided me with each and every person and opportunity that I have in my life. This month I have had that moment several times, where I just look around in awe of those who surround me and the life that I have been able to live until now. Many times when we are younger, we don’t take the time to appreciate those around us or what they do for us. Especially this year, I have tried to take each opportunity possible and express gratitude to my friends, family, anyone else who makes my life better, supports me in my passion, or simply puts a huge smile on my face. It’s so important to take the time to thank those who love you most, because usually they are the ones that help make your successes possible. This I am grateful for.

Here’s a tip, when you want your boyfriend to wrap up in lights with you and take cute pictures, don’t ask. Just tell him it’s part of your Christmas present.

December has been such a busy and exciting  month. Not only Christmas, but my 21st BIRTHDAY was this month as well, and then New Year’s Eve is coming up soon. It seems like things have been going non-stop. Starting with Christmas, I had such a great holiday. I’m so obsessed with Christmas anyway; Christmastime at my house means the whole shebang…gingerbread cookies, Christmas movie marathons, hot cocoa, Christmas music on full-blast all day, and a TON of delicious food. I my family traditions like spending time in the kitchen with my Mom or reciting every word of Elf with my Dad. I love spending Christmas Eve at my Nana’s and going to my Papaw’s on Christmas Day. My family is so goofy and fun, they really make every occasion unforgettable. I’m grateful for the endless laughter.

Like this year my Dad decided to put on his red PJ”s that he used to wear every year at Christmas when my brother and I were babies….let’s just say they were a little small. So he decided to wear his Grinch boxers over the PJ’s…HILARIOUS. Speaking of PJ’s, we have the tradition at my house to open a pair of PJ’s on Christmas Eve, so this year I decided to get my boyfriend and I matching Minion pajamas from Target. They were so adorable, and of course we had to do a mini-photoshoot with them. It was so much fun even though Luke absolutely HATES taking pictures, and let’s be honest, the Minion PJ’s weren’t really his style. But I love that I get to be my crazy, goofy self around my family because they are just as crazy/goofy as I am (even if they won’t admit it). Learning how to laugh at myself and realizing that I don’t have to strive for perfection in every single moment has been hard for me, but when I let myself be free it gives me this whole new and beautiful perspective. I’m grateful for that inner-child silliness.

Turning 21 this week was another big ah-ha moment for me. I guess it just made me feel like it’s my turn to really start making a difference in the world, whether that’s through my dancing, introducing people to a healthy lifestyle, or simply being a positive light to others. Most people say that they don’t really feel different when they turn 21, but I did wake up that day feeling different. I felt rejuvenated and EXCITED about taking on the world even more than I am now. I have so many things that I want to accomplish and I feel like there is nothing stopping me from doing so. I am grateful for this drive to achieve my dreams.

This is my favorite Christmas ornament EVER because my amazing Grammy gave it to me when I was little. She was the person who inspired me to dance and her memory continues to inspire me to live my dreams.

I got to spend my birthday with my boyfriend, and can I just say that he is so incredible. Words cannot express how much this man means to me. He made me feel so special on my birthday, but he does that every day. Every day is amazing with him, whether we are at home watching the Flash or out exploring new places, foods, and experiences. For my birthday he took me to this delicious tapas bar in Asheville called Zambra that had such a cool Arabic vibe. We split 4 tapas plates that were DELICIOUS ( I ate more than half) and then finished off the night with sweets from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.  I also ate waaayyy to much but enjoyed every bit of the Vanilla Cake, Liquid Truffle, and the Assorted Truffles that we got (yes I was feeling the effects today unfortunately, but it was worth it). I’m grateful for true love. Annnd I’m grateful for good food and SWEET SWEET chocolate.

Of course there are so many other things in my life that I am grateful for, and there is no way that I could write about all of them. But recently I have tried to take even a few moments and be thankful for things that seem simple, but are actually really huge. I was listening to the Gina Pero Show: Living Life Full Out (which is part of my regular routine when I’m driving) and the host Gina was talking about how incredible it is that she is blessed to simply have legs that can walk, much less have a body that can dance. Creating these beautiful movements and telling these deep stories with our bodies is something that many people aren’t able to do. I am so lucky to have dance in my life, and have the ability that I have. I know many times that I feel frustrated because I can’t get my body to move a certain way as quickly as I would like, or that my technical ability isn’t as great as it COULD be. But letting these things get me down and stress me out isn’t worth it. Focusing more on what we do have instead of what we don’t will make us much more positive people and then we can begin to live even more fully. I’m grateful for a body that can dance.

Something that I’ve noticed a lot lately is that it is extremely hard for people who are unhealthy to get out of that lifestyle and make a change towards becoming healthy. Having a healthy lifestyle was a decision that I made as I started to dance. I realized how important it is for a dancer to be in great shape and keep their body strong and nourished. I have been so blessed to have family members who have helped me to see the RIGHT and HEALTHY ways to do this. I have also learned a lot through self-research, social media, as well as my recent experience as a BeachBody coach which taught me what styles of fitness work best for my body. It’s really sad that some people want to be healthier but don’t have the drive or will-power they need to stick to it. I’m grateful for the motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The list really can go on and on, but my point is this: if you aren’t constantly in a state of gratitude, then how can you ever really appreciate the things you have? I never want to be that person that takes their life for granted and then loses everything and everyone they ever cared about. 2016 has been absolutely incredible, and now I can start 2017 with a whole new perspective that hopefully will lead me to even greater things.

I wish you the best for this New Year. I hope you make some big plans and have the drive and passion to achieve them. I hope you find that gratitude inside yourself and express it to others, because what good is gratitude if we keep it bottled up inside?

Cheers to 2017, opportunity, and gratitude,

Ashlyn Tori <3