Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, everyone! My name is Gabriela Rodli, 39 years old, and you can definitely call me Gabie. I am Brazilian, and life is a mixture of totally awesome and super hard and coffee, all at the same time.
I love to laugh and I love the water. I like hugs, and I may (or may not) jump up and down and squeal when I’m super excited about something… It is also possible that, when I am truly upset, you may (or may not) hear my voice all the way from down the street.
I arrived in the USA, Saint Paul -MN, in 1998, where I eventually enrolled in a small community college. My best friend was marrying a guy from Montana, and he and his party came to Saint Paul, where the wedding was happening. There I met Brett, one of the Montanans. He was like, the nicest guy in the world, and we got to talking and then dating. We traveled between MN and MT to see each other, and we emailed a lot (said the 39 year old). That was 1999. He proposed to me during one of my visits. We were at Glacier, at the Going To The Sun Road. Before he could finish the question, though, I got so excited that I jumped on his neck. I think I knocked him off.
We have been married now for 17 years. Together, we have three super lovable children, two from birth and one from adoption, through foster-care. Ask me about these things anytime. I love sharing the story. We also have two ridiculously cute dogs.
Last year, my two feet ventured back into school, at the University of Montana. I had been a stay-at-home mom, and now I am going after my BA in Psychology. The whole thing is too amazing to me, yet it is happening. I am a student!
The latest in my never-too-boring life, is that I am applying for my U.S. citizenship. Finally. So there we have it. We live in Missoula, in our yellow house, which makes me think of the song Yellow Submarine, from the Beatles. My dad used to sing this song, when I was a kid. Love the memory!
We are so interested in your experience coming to the United States and your decision to make this place home. Tell us about this journey.
When my parents divorced, my mother moved to the USA to marry her new husband. My two siblings and I (I am a middle child) stayed with my dad. It was great, really, but I had to come and visit my mom. I had to see her and spend time with her.
Growing up, my family has always loved the United States. Whenever possible, my dad would make a point of opening the American culture to us. I think my dad envisioned this exploratory life for us. His own father taught himself to speak English by picking up books in the language. So impressive! Anyway, this background stirred a love for the USA in me.
I had been here before, as a visitor and as a foreign student, but it wasn’t until I came to visit my mom, in 1998, that I deeply connected with America and its people. At that time, coming from a family that had just broken apart, I was emotionally worn out. I needed an example of determination, a sense of independence. What I found is that Americans simply were that way. People here were not afraid of facing responsibilities. In fact, they liked to work for what they had. Being in the United States caused me to grow, which, I’m pretty sure, made my mom and dad and grandpa kind of proud. I craved this attitude of getting off my own butt.
I have always been well treated by this country. I appreciate what it has done for me, as I adopted it into my heart. I love it and its people, so very much. I have been here now, for almost as long as I have lived in Brazil. This year, I am applying for citizenship. I was born and raised in Brazil, but I have become a woman in the United States.
It is also super inspiring that you are going back to school as a “non-traditional” student. What made you want to take the plunge, and to specifically study Psychology?
What made me take the plunge… I think there was a growing sense in my heart that a time for change was coming.
I have loved Psychology for as long as I can remember, and I became fascinated with the brain since I started reading books on childhood trauma, when we were training to become therapeutic foster-parents.
I can’t help it, but I see people as walking books. People are hardly ever limited to what we can see. There is a reason why people talk, behave, and treat you the way they do. People are books who want to be translated and understood. Of course, the brain has a direct line to behavior. It is a most fascinating organ, which God created.
What ties this all together for me is Neuropsychology. So I am looking at going after my PhD, in due time and lots, lots more of studying. I know the walk is long, and I am walking uphill for this, but if I am on the right track, it’s a matter of one step at a time, resilience, and determination.
Realistically, I will not have a very long career. I probably won’t have my name stamped on the latest research, and I may never be as tall as most are. But you know, I am suspecting that the best part of this whole thing is not the end of the journey, not at all. The journey itself is the best part. I have already met fascinating people and have already learned things that I never knew before.
Going back to school seems overwhelming, at times, but what overwhelms me can also send me such motivation. Besides, my three kids are watching me closely. Since I’ve gone back to school, they talk more about going to college.
What’s a book we all need to read?
The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. I have it permanently by my bed, like a memento. It is not an easy story to read, but it helps you to find courage in the midst of dark days. I think I have read it 4 times already. It always speaks to my heart.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” It’s from the Bible, and I have it written on my bedroom wall. It is a reminder that I need on a daily basis.
What’s the last movie or TV show you saw that really made an impression on you?
Oh my word, this just happened a couple of weeks ago. The movie Lion. My husband and I were curious to watch it, not knowing much about it. We both wept throughout the story. It helped us think of our family, of our own story, of the responsibility we have because of it.
Tell us about someone who’s had a great impact on your life and why?
I am impacted easily by people because each person has so much with which to impact me. A person, strategically placed in my life, will imprint something on me. I can think of a few… But there is one who impacts me on a daily basis. That is, my husband.
From the day I met Brett, I have found in him a safety I have found in no one else. It is how he listens to me, how he treats me, how he treats others… I watch him, and I learn how to be a better person. If I know how to be kind or forgiving or how to press on in life, that’s probably because Brett has demonstrated it to me first.
Off the top of your head, what is one of your happiest memories?
Becoming a mother for the first time. How could I possibly have known that kind love and power before I had that girl? I remember her being placed on my chest, and the whole world faded, it simply faded away. All I could see were her eyes, looking at me. I was her mother!! Her skin, her face, arms, legs, all of her… My daughter.
Talk to us about friendship. What role do friends play in your life?
Friends… I have struggled with the concept of friendship. What makes a person a friend? The ones with whom we share life-history or the ones with whom we just met but shared a significant moment? The ones we see often or the ones we don’t even have to see often at all?
I don’t know, really. What I do know, though, is that I need them. I need all types of them, is what I am confessing here. Friends help me to feel accepted and a part of something. They also help me to vent my problems, refreshing my heart. They can brighten my day, distract my mind.
More importantly, however, I do want to be a friend because people need to have friends. They need to feel accepted and a part of something. I want to listen to their problems and refresh their hearts. I want to brighten their day and distract their mind.
What are some qualities you see in the women you admire?
Kindness. Kindness, in spite of circumstances. I have seen many women, the strong, the successful, the beautiful, the smart, the outgoing, whatever the adjective… But take kindness out of the woman, and all the other qualities crumble down.
Another quality I see in the women I admire is wisdom. Wisdom is not equal to intellect, mind you. I am talking about the woman who knows how to say it, when to say it, how to act, how to influence, how to be vulnerable, how to counsel, how to simply listen.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give your 20 year old self?
Gabie, you have no idea how wonderful life will be for you, like, things you can’t even imagine right now! But there will be some valleys. You will struggle. You will question. Stay strong, though. It will be worth it!
Also, soon you will get tired of your blond highlights. Don’t go straight dying your hair black, girl! Your hair will turn green, for real! Try to learn how to do this thing right before you make that move, okay?
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. For sure. I mean, tea is fun and all, but coffee is like… Life!
Chocolate or vanilla?
Quick quiz: Chocolate is to my well-being as a ___ is to my lungs.
Introvert or extrovert?
A “convenient-vert”. It depends on the day, baby!
Rural or urban?
Urban, with a rural wanna-be flare. Like, I can go camping, provided I have access to a bathroom, running water, a roof over my head… Provided I get to go back home to sleep. No, no, it’s best I don’t attempt camping… But I find the idea of being out there pretty cool, though.
Dress up or dress down?
Dress up, forever and ever. I love my high-heels or adorable flats and rings and bracelets and perfume and all sorts of fun stuff. Do you know, my “on-fleek” grandma used her high-heels until her 80’s? Now, that’s a woman I admire!
Cats or dogs?
Dogs, those goofballs. But cats, I do admire you, and I wish I could hold you. It’s just that you give me terrible allergies, and your mysterious ways kinda freak me out, sometimes.
Sunrise or sunset?
Sunset… Something about finishing up a day’s labor.
Detailed or abstract?
Detailed. In art and in life, details matter to me.
Classic or modern?
Classic. Some styles mark the world permanently, right Audrey Hepburn?
Call or text?
Please, please, oh please, text me first! I suffer from “talking-on-the-phone-a-phobia”. I am working on ways to fight this disorder, but I still need a heads-up, please.
Fiction or non-fiction?
Non-fiction, for the most part.
Salty or Sweet?
Salty first, then send me the sweet. Just don’t mix them. Not a fan of the collision.
What do you love most about Montana?
Its nature. This is truly a beautiful place, oh my gosh. Those Mission Mountains can take my breath away! I also like the pace of life we can find here.
How do you handle life’s difficulties?
The way I handle it? Well, first I panic. This is the time where I feel lots of fear and swear I can’t take it, which I say to the Lord vehemently. I usually blame everyone else for it and want to run away from the problem. I cannot predict the duration of this stage. Then, when I realize my actual situation, when I realize that things don’t have to be black and white and that, perhaps, I can work on this, I calm down. I go back before the Lord and say, “Ok, I’m ready. Let’s do this!”
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
I’ve gotta say, I am grateful I found Jesus. Some people say, religion. Others say, faith. I am naming mine because it was a real relationship, and I believe in his name.
I found Jesus during a time in my life where I had lost a critical amount of hope. The hole I felt inside was greater than my mind could comprehend. Reading about Jesus, accepting it as his words for me, lifted me from the pit.
Sadly, since that time, I have visited the pit again, more than once. It is just the way my brain works. I have a tendency to travel to anxiety and depression, every now and again. And every time, every single time, I find my way back up because of Jesus and who he is for me. I can’t deny that kind of thing.