It was almost two years ago that she pulled up to my new temporary housing. She didn't want me to get lost or confused my first time driving to an OKC Thunder game, especially in the rain. I followed her to the arena that night, sat with her in the stands. A sweet, but edgy soul. Envision Californian sprinkled with a lil' Boston...and maybe a flick of Puerto Rican. We became fast, forever friends sitting in those stands.

Dani is the type of person who doesn't offer anything that she isn't sincere about.  She is very much her own person, comfortable in her olive-toned skin, a simple greek chick.  She's tall and naturally slender. Can wear a pair of holey jeans and a white tee with perfection.  Her beauty is effortless and classic.  And her smile. Her smile is inviting and soothing. The kind of smile that reassures you that you may be crazy, but that's alright. 

Dani is the type of person you'd call to pick your kid up from school if you're in a jam. Or leave your kid with overnight when you go into labor with your next.  She's the kind who is giving your child both  maternal squeezes and dirty 'don't you dare' looks, as applicable. She's gently passing on her 'Baby Whisperer' book to you when you're tired and frazzled and desperately needing that baby to sleep. And she's the one saving all her baby's clothes for yours, folded sweetly, and given in an old Pamper box.

Dani is the type of person who has the gift of friendship.  The gift.

She's a gatherer. A warm hugger. A stoic back-rubber. She tells you that you look tired, brings your kid close to her chest, and orders you home to get some rest. She tells you not to call. That she doesn't want to see your face for 3 hours. All in love. 

Coffee. Tea. Exchanges of books. Playdates. Thanksgiving dinner ordered from Cracker Barrel  when our husbands are on the road.  Bringing people together is effortless for her.  She is a magnet for strong girl-ships. She's a supporter. A confidante. A soul sister. 

She's unpretentious. She's just who she is. She claims she's not a good cook, and unapologetically throws together a delicious chicken soup courtesy of  Dani is steady. Even on a bad day, she's the same. She isn't worried about you seeing her house in disarray, if you are a friend. She doesn't mind seeing yours, either.  She's not an extrovert, but laughs loudly and genuinely with her sister circle. She swings in a hammock while the girls raise hell in the playhouse. Her home is warm. Welcoming. Calming. A place for all of us. 

Dani is the type of person who loves her family with all her strength. But if she starts losing a sense of self, she joins a gym or cuts her hours at work.  She's got a strong personal constitution. She knows her boundaries and isn't afraid to enforce them. She's loyal. She's kind to herself. Makes you want to be kind to yourself, too. 

Dani is real. calm. confident. Human in the most beautiful way. 

She doesn't pretend to have it all together.  But her tidy cabinets and charming backyard makes you think she probably does. She's an adventurer. Not a lover of money or material things.  She has no desire to be rich. She just wants to live a good life- full of experiences, beach trips, and love. 

Dani is a true friend. And i'm so sad that she just moved away.  My experience in OKC would not nearly have been the same without her.  She was my soft place to fall, and always had a listening ear on days when I was lonely.

"Welcome the stranger". That's what the Bible tells us to do. That's what Dani did for me so gracefully.  I have learned so much from her about being a gatherer of wandering souls.  Making space for them. Letting them know that they are alright.

Dani, I want to thank you for all you've done. For having the gift, and sharing it with me. Thank you for loving Halo and for being the best white auntie she could ever ask for.  Thank you for sharing my rage during election season, and for understanding so many of the nuances that make the world different for you and me.  Thank you for your everyday courage, dry humor, and again, for the gift.