my favorite laugh.

When Evan finished his first semester of—official—nursing school, I did a little celebratory dance for the occasion.

And—of course—I watched the video over and over, because I’m addicted to that laugh. The beginning of this journey feels like so. long. ago. Because it’s been a really long journey—this whole Evan-in-Nursing-School thing. He has worked nights at a local restaurant to make it all work financially. He has worked nights at a local restaurant to make it all work financially. He has pulled multiple all-nighter to study, write, and make it all work academically. He has been there for me as a husband, friend, and teammate. I’m amazed and impressed. And SO PROUD.

So for the end of his LAST semester in nursing school, I had an idea. On a trip with Allison, I told her about my idea to lip-synch a mutually beloved Drake song for Evan. Her response: “Well, obviously, I should do the Nicki Minaj part.” [this—and many more reasons—is why I love her so.] So we proceeded to have a weekend in Jackson where I relived my best middle school sleepovers and recorded MANY music videos. [the best. the funniest.]

So we went for it. And then we thought, “Maybe this would be even MORE fun if we asked some of Evan’s friends to participate.”

Evan was officially done with classes on Thursday and we were both just so ecstatic. Ev had to work Friday night, so I set it all up. I wrote on our chalkboard, “YOU DID IT!” I left him a card…

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…with a bottle of whisky. The card included the reference, “I want some whisky!” which was from the night Evan found out he was accepted to Montana State University’s accelerated nursing program. A bookend bottle of whisky. [note: that post ALSO includes a strong Drake reference.]

I tried to stay up and wait for Evan, surprise him with all this love and then surprise him with this video I had waiting.

But I fell asleep on the couch. And could not be awoken. It was a long day!

So the next morning, I was shakey and excited and nervous and just wanted to show Evan this video. This ah-mazing video that our friends made so incredible.

So we were drinking coffee and I said to Evan, “Ohhh noooo… shit! I just got some bad feedback on a video I’ve been working on for FIB.” [lies.] [also, FIB = First Interstate Bank… a regular client.]

He was bummed for me. [gotta love him.] I asked if he’d watch the video with me and tell me what he thought of it. He stopped working on bikes to gladly watch. I set up my computer to secretly record on the coffee table [black tape over the Photobooth light, brightness turned alllll the way down so the screen is black… you’re welcome].

Oh my goodness. That laugh. So much of that laugh. Worth all the late nights. All the hard weeks. All the shitty months. All the alone togetherness. All the tears. Worth it.

I love it. I love him. I love this laugh. I love this video. Don’t even try to make me stop watching it thousands of times over.

[and all I can say is…]

engagement photos.

Evan and I have spent the two months of our engagement driving back and forth from Missoula, Bozeman, and Jackson. Things have been a little more insane than usual with us both finishing up our semesters (my final!!!!) and moving and new jobs and new communities and whatnot.

But being engaged has been amazing. I really thought nothing would change from knowing I was going to spend the rest of my life with Evan and then it being official by me wearing a beautiful ring… Things are different. Things are brighter. There is an excitement in this comfort of commitment that I did not expect. Being engaged rules. (I know that might sound braggy… not sorry.)

I never thought I’d be the person who wanted engagement photos, but when Danford Photography posted on Facebook how they were looking for newly engaged couples for a portrait session, I thought, Well, I love being engaged… And let’s throw one more thing into the mix for this crazy time!

Karen and Jesse chose us for a session and I was beyond excited! Evan traveled over to Bozeman for the weekend just for the shoot and we. are. so. glad that he did.

It was a blast driving down to the Madison River area and walking around in the wind, having our photos taken. Karen and Jesse are so awesome: totally casual and sweet and encouraging.

And we are in. love. with our photos…

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I cannot speak highly enough of Danford Photography. Karen and Jesse are incredible people. After the short time we spent with them, we consider them friends! If you’re in the Bozeman area and need any photography in your life… hit them up!

And all of my jewelry (in the photos and basically in general forever now) is Laurel Hill Jewelry. She is also incredible. Ahh, such amazing artists in my life!

thank you thank you, all! xxo.

TWO.

Today has quietly come.

Last year, on January 21st, I finally exhaled. I had survived one year. I had made it a year since my huge — life threatening/changingaccident.

It’s been two years. Two years.

In 2013, I survived. It was a whole year in survival mode. A painful and fragile existence.

And then a year ago today, I promised myself I would go beyond surviving and start thriving. I would let myself live. I would start grabbing life by the balls… and mean it.

It was a promise.

And I did it. I thrived.

What a year.

There were many painful times. There were hard decisions and sleepless nights.

But I cannot let 2014 slip away without acknowledging just how incredible it was.

There was my first film festival.

And then a bike tour with an amazing friend.

bluebonnetsforfacebook[oh, that ended with us winning tickets to see my favorite band of all time and then us getting front-row passes for being awesome and wearing masks… NBD.]

Then having a story published about one of the best experiences I’ve ever had — bike touring with my mom.

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And then another film festival. A big one. My first time in Canada.

Where we won an award that led to our debut on PBS. PBS.

10012770_824297047600329_4766137471563233147_o[I still feel like this every time I think about it.]

And then there were Texas times with my whole family and my best friend.

There was SCHLITTERBAHN.

Oh, and then another bike tour!

There was a 20 In Their 20s Award. [just in time.]

There was some of the most fun work I’ve ever done.

Oh, and yesterday I submitted two films for the 2015 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. [celebrate!]

And there was so much more. So many times and travels with loved ones.

July5
Love an joy in friends and family.

A deeper love for my one.

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A confidence in this beautiful life I’m leading.

Thriving.

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Thank you, 2014 [and few parts of 2015, though, mainly you’ve been kind of a shit-show of horribleness… pull it together, 2015].

It’s been a real pleasure, 2014. Thank you for being so good to me.

Tonight, we’ll make a toast to 2014 and look forward to 2015.

For the two year anniversary, there is nothing but reflection. Nothing but absolute joy and gratefulness for this life.

I’m just so happy to be here. Beyond grateful for the goodness that goes beyond just being here.

Thank you for being a part of all of the beauty, the thriving.

And I got to see one of my favorites this year in a beautiful historic theater, from the balcony, with dearest friends:

[so much love.]

enjoyable and invigorating.

I just caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and paused with comical assurance.

11:30pm: Wool ski socks, short shorts, grey sweatshirt, long necklace, mom’s old wool cap, bourbon in hand.

I chuckle and think, How did I get here?

With a quick mental recap, I conclude that this day said so much about where I am:
• Still can’t make anything but a shitty cup of coffee. I try so many mornings. When I asked Evan to taste this morning, he says, It’s not the worst.

• Working hard on the things I love still feels like a Mad Men daydream but in actuality means staring at computer for twelve hours at a time while my ass finds a new shape. I love it.

• Trail running in December in Montana is something that’s possible and enjoyable and invigorating and I still surprise myself when I prove these things to myself.

• Watched a Boyhood featurette and fell harder in love with that film and then harder in love with life: http://filmmakermagazine.com/88625-watch-boyhood-behind-the-scenes-featurette/#.VJEqrocxpYB

This made me want to call so many people — my little brother, everyone in Austin, my best friend, every guy I dated in college — and tell them they must sit down right now and watch Boyhood. They must. Right now.

• I received a grant today for a film I’m making. When I read the email, I immediately raised my hands in the air out of excitement like a child would. I like that that’s still in me.

• Unapologetically had a burger and fries and an old fashion with a co-worker to catch up on all of the menial office gossip. This will always be a thing.

• Watch a hockey game with a gaggle of friends and did a lot of standing up and yelling like a crazy mother. I’m still confused on how I got here.

• Home now. Doing laundry so that I can wear my favorite pair of pants tomorrow at work because we’re releasing a film I’ve been working very hard on and I think I should be in my very favorite pants.

Now that I’ve retraced and traced everything, I guess I see.

Everything is pretty familiar.

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Cheers.

And for good measure, a song I love right now that maybe should be a warning sign…

[oh, that’s how.]

really looking at ourselves.

I’ve been thinking about this blahg and how it’s funny that I’ll just wait and then spill all of this stuff on you… on the internet… on record… so much just comes out and it leaves everyone involved bewildered.

But that’s how my life is now. I’ll meet a friend for quick coffee and in a flurry of lattes I’ll divulge current fears laced with darkest secrets and pepper in recent comical embarrassments. It’s amazing that these friends are still around. Obviously, I’m insane. In the same vein, thank you for being here.

Tonight I walked to the pub theater again to watch The Skeleton Twins with a few lady friends…

I loved it. The review “heart-crushingly real” resonates. And Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader together in a dramatic comedy? I die. I loved it.

So much so that when I was walking home and realized it was game five of the world series and stopped in a dive bar to watch the rest of the Kansas City slaughter, I had to write about how much I felt The Skeleton Twins. But I didn’t bring my journal, so I had to write on the back of the movie ticket. Don’t worry. Don’t worry I still glued it in…

skeleton
Speaking of amazing films that I cannot stop thinking about…

Ida. GO WATCH IDA.

It might be one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Every single frame is frame-worthy. It is beautiful.

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Plus it’s about a young religious woman and a drunk aunt… both forces I deeply relate to. It is amazing. You can rent it via Amazon. It comes with my highest recommendation.

Also, I think Lynne Ramsay is becoming my favorite filmmaker…

That link may not work as embedded, because it’s a serious, award-winning, short that is inexplicably on YouTube. So just go here, if it doesn’t work. Do yourself a favor. Trigger warning: I would’ve appreciated knowing that there’s a minor OD scene.

When I was young (I can’t remember how young… 12?… 10?… unclear.), we had this old towel that lived in the cupboard. I believe it was a towel of my grandmothers. It had this amazing vintage pattern on it. It was a pattern that I thought was so beautiful; the kind of pattern the movie stars would wear on the red carpet or for interviews on the Jay Leno show. Here’s the embarrassing admission that my family (or myself) was a Jay Leno fan, instead of David Letterman. (I did have an aunt who pointed this flaw [and many other flaws] out at any opportunity.)

I would sneak that towel into my bedroom and wrap it around me like a dress. It was glamorous. I would then use the full-length mirror in my room as the stage of the Late Night Show. I would be in my make-believe-world pretending that someone wanted to interview me about something on national television. My make-believe fame was hilarious. I was famous for “being a really nice person.” THAT’S what make-believe-famous Rachel was famous for. This is comical for two reasons: 1. I’m not even the nicest person in this room. I’m not the worst asshole in the world, but I am certainly not nice enough to write home about. 2. Even at a young age, I was skeptical about my talents. At age 11, I couldn’t even make up a plausible dream-reason for me to be interviewed.

A few weeks ago, I hung up the phone after talking with PBS about 20/Nothing. I immediately texted my best friend, my mother, and Evan…

“I just got off the phone from talking about a film I made with the people at PBS… so, I think this might be some sort of life-highlight. had to share/brag with my bf, bff, and mom. xxo.”

It’s not Jay Leno and I wasn’t wearing a fancy towel, but it felt like something. It felt like something I had rehearsed for. It felt like something I was dreaming about… even though that dream wasn’t specific. It was surreal.

The interview lives on PBS’ website now: http://www.pbs.org/pov/20nothing/interview.php An excerpt…

POV: How did you come to the last scene in 20/Nothing? Was the plan always for the film to end with a shot of Evan without his eye?

Rachel Stevens: The theme we were given was “Behind the Curtain,” so we knew we were going to have to have Evan take his eye out. People are usually either grossed out or fascinated by this scene; both reactions are a win for the film. I think the last scene in 20/Nothing is what being human is all about. Sometimes really looking at ourselves (or each other) makes us uncomfortable, but there is real beauty in fully embracing the “imperfections” in us.

I am insanely proud and insanely grateful for this PBS love. This is a dream that came to fruition almost before I knew I wanted it. I couldn’t have done it without an incredibly talented and incredibly supported group of people. Thank you, Sarah, Caitlin, and Tuna. (And [obviously] thank you, Evan… my muse and my rock.)

Have I bragged enough? No? Oh, well, by nothing of my own talent, a photo of me appeared on National Geographic’s website this past week…

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 10.47.04 PMStrong work, Chuck Haney!

I really thought my parents would love this fame. This one’s for y’all!

A couple months ago Evan and I went for a van trip. An overnight that was filled with some of the biggest smiles. We took the Polaroid even though it’s been on the fritz. I took a photo of Evan standing in/next to the van… Evan in his happy place… in his element. The photo didn’t come out how we wanted. It broke. It’s broken. But I. love. this. photo. I’ve been waiting to share it…

evan_cheshire_smile

In the error of development, Evan still has a cheshire-cat-esque smile, which is shockingly on-point when compared to a true capture. Do you see the thumbnail crescent smile of his? On the broken film? Amazing. I love it so.

This post was brought to you by listening to Stars’ album “Set Yourself On Fire” twice in a row. And by two weeks worth of listening to this song on repeat and being mildly obsessed with its video…

Y’all take care. Thanks for the ramble.

[the ramble.]

A Love Letter. Re: 20/Nothing.

Dear All,

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about 20/Nothing on this here blahg.

The whole International Documentary Challenge was an insane, amazing experience.

workingon20nothing
Through one of Missoula’s craziest blizzards, Sarah Meismer, Caitlin Hofmeister, Josef “Tuna” Metesh, and myself spent five days making a film we love about a guy we love: Evan Smith. We had 20/Nothing.

Then our film was named a finalist. We were beyond ecstatic. Sarah, Tuna, and I were lucky enough* to be able to go to Toronto to watch 20/Nothing on the big screen at the Hot Docs International Film Festival.

After watching all of the amazing films, we stood up on stage, aside so many other incredible filmmakers as they announced awards for this whole competition. We won “Best Experimental Film.” And then we won PBS P.O.V. Award.

I was shocked.

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We were excited.

winningintoronto

We came back to Missoula. We were on cloud nine. But we still couldn’t show anyone this film we love.

Now we can. Now it’s in a competition on The Audience Awards website.

Before the competition started, I was not excited about this film I love going head-to-head in basically a who-has-more-friends-on-Facebook-contest.

But now? I want to win. Why? Two reasons:

• I want to win this competition in the same vein that I want to win scholarships, Scrabble, soccer, and that one cheesecake eating contest I entered. I work hard. I care hard. I put my all into a lot of things. And I want to win. It’s not the reason I play, enter, make, or eat… but it’s there.

• I am insanely proud of 20/Nothing. I want to put another laurel under this film’s belt.

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So I’m asking you to vote for 20/Nothing. There is only one day left to do so. Today. Sunday.

But more importantly than that, I’m asking you to watch 20/Nothing.

And Maikaru.

And Nobody Loves Joel Romeo.

And Bruise Ballet.

And Hoofer.

I want you to see these films. (They’re short! They won’t be online for much longer!)

I want you to be inspired by them. I want you to know these subjects. These films.

I was beyond inspired by these films/filmmakers. We all celebrated in Toronto after the premieres and I got to meet and toast to a lot of the amazing directors and filmmakers. I met Amanda Harryman (the director of Maikaru… our toughest competition) and forced my business card upon her.

– Please contact me. I love your work. I want to ask you all kinds of questions.

When she emailed me a couple weeks later, asking me what questions I had, I kind of went blank. How do you ask someone, “How do I be like you?” ?

I admire her so and would be absolutely excited for her and the Maikaru crew if they win this competition.

I win sometimes, but a lot of times I don’t. People think I’m on a winning streak, but I don’t think people realize how much I put myself out there and how many times I really, really do not succeed.

I was rejected from five graduate programs before getting into the University of Montana.

I have had projects/films completely flop. I have been insanely embarrassed by my ambition.

I didn’t even win that cheesecake eating competition. And that one hurt.

But I have learned so much and have lived so much through this whole process. And that’s the winning. That’s why we all do things like this. The experience. The people.

I am so excited to have met Amanda and many of the other filmmakers. I have become like family with my crew and love them so.

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And YOU. ALL OF YOU. My friends and family who have been so patient with all of this craziness. One of my dearest friends told me the other day, “I have to be honest… I’m a little sick of 20/Nothing.”

I know! Gosh. Seriously. I haven’t had a real conversation with many of you in years and then I’m bombarding you with “VOTE FOR MY FILM” nonsense… and then you do it. Wow.

My family has rallied. My friends have gone above and beyond. My professors have supported me beyond belief. You all have been incredible.

*There is no way we could’ve gotten to Toronto without the love and support from you all. We did a campaign to raise money and so many lovely people were so generous. THANK YOU.

I wouldn’t have known this kind of support without making 20/Nothing. I’m almost in tears. Struggling at every step to do something you love is one thing. Doing something you love and then having your community, your tribe, support you at every step is another. Having both of those things hand-in-hand throughout this whole process has been a whirlwind of a dream come true.

THANK YOU ALL.

Thank you, family: Mom, Dad, Ry, and Sarah.

Thank you, team: Tuna, Sarah, Caitlin, and Evan.

Thank you, Evan’s family… so many people I haven’t even met! All supporting!

Thank you, Evan’s friends.

(Sidenote: I was so afraid of the reception that 20/Nothing would have with Evan’s friends and family. You love a person so much and you want to do his story justice, but what if his family hates it? What if his closest friends think it’s dumb? Thank you so much for all of your kind words. It has meant the world to me that so many of you love it. Each time I look at a vote and have to ask, “Evan, who’s this person?” and he answers, “Oh, that’s my friend from childhood.” or “Oh, that’s my cousin’s wife.” or something along those lines, my heart bursts with joy. Thank you so much.)

Thank you, amazing friends at Adventure Cycling.

Thank you, University of Montana Media Arts lovelies.

Thank you, friends back in Texas.

Thank you, Missoula community.

Thank you, Jackson community.

Thank you, dear friends who I love so damn much.

Thank you, people I’ve met once, but know I want to have in my life more because they are so inspiring.

Thank you, Doc Challenge.

Thank you, Audience Awards.

Thank you, Hot Docs.

Thank you Amanda. Good luck!

Thank you thank you thank you thank you all.

I adore all of you.

All the Love,
Rachel.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

to celebrate, let me show you some of my favorites…

this will always be the most hilarious halloween video ever made:

i definitely held true to this theorya of halloween costumes…

since i went as billie jean king and my bearded manfriend went as bobby riggs…


i don’t know how i feel about how easily identifiable i was as billie… but at least i wasn’t explaining my costume all night.

also, my mom’s very favorite halloween joke: https://rachellaurenmarie.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/my-moms-favorite-halloween-joke/

and then there’s this. not exactly halloweenie, but eerie in the best way. it’s a long video, and i think i’ve posted it before, and yes, it’s forever long, but i love it:

[happy halloween, lovelies!]