in partnership
(Image: Alexandra Celia / Seattle Refined).

Documenting Love: Sam & Kathleen's Story

Photographer/blogger/genius Alexandra Celia has devoted her career to documenting love in its purest and most original form - which you'll see in her photos. Every now and then she will share her work with couples: their love story, their commitment, their passion....and of course, their photos. Think of her as our Love Guru. She loves love, and is here to share it with the rest of us. Next up, the story of Sam & Kathleen - living and loving life as an engaged couple in Portland.

Funny enough, Sam and I probably disagree on when we first met. I remember first meeting Sam at a dark divey bar in San Francisco. We were at a mutual friend’s birthday party, whom neither of us knew well. I had heard Sam’s name before, though. My roommate at the time coincidentally grew up in the same small town as Sam outside of Boston. She was a few years younger than him and didn’t know him well, but I remember her coming home one day and telling me about a “guy from her high school that just moved to San Francisco” who she ran into in the neighborhood.

I remember talking to Sam briefly that first night at the bar - mostly about the not-so-glamorous life of working in science and research. At some point I was pulled away by a friend and we went our separate ways, but what I remember most distinctly is Sam going out of his way at the end of the night to find me in the bar, say it was nice to meet me and give me a hug goodbye.

Hilariously, Sam doesn’t remember this night. Although I am absolutely certain it happened. In fact, he has an entire other story, time, and place of our first meeting.

Luckily for us, this was not the first of "small world" run-ins that we’d have with each other. A couple months later, I was headed to a Saint Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl with a friend - entirely not my scene, but I promised I would go. We started with a few beers at a friend’s apartment.

I walked in and immediately spotted Sam in the room. I was unexpectedly surprised and glad to see him. The group descended to the pub crawl and at some point along the way we started chatting and both confided in each other that this was far from how we wanted to spend our Saturday. That’s all it took for us to ditch the pub crawl in exchange for beers and a picnic at a nearby park.

I remember tipsily walking through the grocery aisles together throwing our favorite food items into the cart - I asked Sam if he’d ever had goat cheese with honey, then insisted on buying an entire bottle of honey, container of salt, goat cheese and a loaf of bread. The rest was history (well something like that)!

I am pretty sure Kathleen will provide a different answer for when we first met. Truth is, she has a better memory than me. While she may recall events better than I can, I’m really good at making up memories and convincing myself they’re true. I digress. However, my memory of first meeting is 100 percent true and has been validated by multiple friends.

First, a further digression: Kathleen and I sorta-very-first-met asynchronously. You see, we were both living in the Bay Area at a point when some lifestyle-changing apps were just landing on the scene (Lyft and Sidecar anyone?). Tinder was just one of these apps. I remember downloading it once, swiping left for about ten minutes straight while watching True Detective, and (thankfully) met Kathleen shortly thereafter IRL, so I never had to pick it up again. Apparently, one of my well intended (yet mindless) left-swipes was Kathleen! I didn’t learn this until a year or two after we met but, as legend has it, a picture of me lying on a couch in the midst of 5-6 canine companions didn’t pique her fancy, and she gave me the dreaded right-swipe.

We actually met in person for the first time at a friend’s party in San Francisco. The night we met, I had a couple different invites to a party and was a little overwhelmed as a relatively new Bay Area transplant trying to land well on the social scene. These party invites were from people from different circles of my life; namely, college friends, high school friends, and new Bay Area friends yet with a little investigation I realized they were actually all to the exact same party. Enter, once again, lifestyle-changing apps. It turns out that Kathleen and I share a complicated Venn diagram of friends who all know each other through multiple avenues, all mostly centered around the host of this party who happened to work at Lyft (bet you didn’t think I was going to get a second lame techy reference to a rideshare app in here, did ya?). There were a lot of stick-on mustaches at this party, and I very distinctly remembering thinking that Kathleen even looked sexy with facial hair.

I’m proud of Sam’s journey of self-exploration and the work he’s done to find contentment in his life. He’s been through some personally trying times in the last five years. In many ways, the world as he knew it was flipped upside down. I am still in awe at Sam’s ability to face that turbulent time with such courage and come out on the other end even better for it. He’s put in the work for himself, and in doing so, is able to give back so much to others in his life. It is something I aspire to.

My heart swells with pride when I think of Kathleen’s success in pursuing her education, and how hard she’s worked to both find and pursue her passion as her career. When Kathleen and I first met, she’d quit her well-paying, soul-sucking job at a tech company after just 4 or 5 months there, and was opting to work part time as a nanny as she re-adjusted her compass. In the several years since, I have been so lucky to watch her gracefully twist and turn her way through several years of change and uncertainty to finally pursuing her Nurse Practitioner degree at UCSF. We have been through so many changes, both expected and unexpected, that could have easily derailed Kathleen’s plans, yet all along she has been chipping away at pre-requisites and finding jobs that set her up for success.

I knew I cared for Sam when he quit his well-paying biotech job and started working at my favorite local bakery.

Only kidding. But that may be a close second!

I feel like I knew before I admitted to myself that I knew. I remember sitting in a dark bar with Sam talking about the neurobiology of free-will. He stopped me mid-sentence and just blurted out “I love you”. It was the first time he’d ever said it. It was so unexpected but also so right. There was no one moment when I knew, but it was in those moments that I felt it; that feeling of not being able to imagine anything else or anyone else. The feeling that there were so many pages in the book yet to be written between us.

I knew I cared for her the day we really first met and spent time together. It wasn’t about physical attraction or an escape from something, but rather about moving towards something and the amplification of passion and compassion that I felt with Kathleen. To me, when I was with (and when I am with) Kathleen felt like a true example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts (or at least my part)!

Trust and compassion sets our relationship apart from past relationships. With ourselves and with each other. A trust that we can tackle what life throws at us together, and compassion for when it’s not the smoothest.

I honestly think that we both feel like we’re the luckiest people in the world. I probably don’t tell Sam that enough. [Sam, I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be with you]. We’ve had all the ups and downs, but through it all, our trust and respect for each other hasn’t wavered.

Relationships are always a work in progress, but it’s honestly been the best journey I can imagine growing our relationship together. I feel continually excited and surprised by the ways in which we grow ourselves and as a couple.

Kathleen and I moved in together (along with two friends) a bit over a year into our relationship. I was working at a job for the summer on the east coast while she moved into the new place. At some point during the summer, a cascade of tumultuous events began with my immediate family that rapidly dismantled my own notions of commitment, and forced Kathleen into a nearly full-time emotional support role. The complexity of making some major life changes alongside coping with this disruption to fundamental beliefs left us in an unexpectedly intense phase of life which tested our relationship; we had to learn to communicate deeply and effectively or go our own ways. During this time, we both had our doubts about the longevity of our relationship, but sharing this with each other with raw vulnerability, and learning to communicate about these doubts, led us to a place of understanding and trust that I have not ever experienced with another individual. Furthermore, we were both forced to look inward in order to understand ourselves so that we could communicate effectively to the other about our needs. Ultimately, what has emerged from this period is a resilient relationship that we both understand how to nurture and maintain on a really fundamental level.

Recently, a lot of our communication comes back to love languages. I am definitely someone who appreciates acts of giving and physical affection, while Kathleen is really a quality time person. We’ve been really busy with school, jobs, wedding, friends, and family, so it’s easy to overlook the other’s love language. But, when we start getting frustrated over something benign or silly, the ensuing conversation usually comes back to love languages, and realizing we need to set aside some deliberate time for each other.

Sam lights up a room when he walks in. He has this contagious positive energy that lifts everyone up. He is one of the most simultaneously thoughtful and selfless people I have ever met; never failing to lend a hand or go the extra mile and a half.

Sam is not scared of being vulnerable, and in that vulnerability has an incredible ability to connect with others—he leans in and asks all the hard questions that others rarely do.

I love his smile, his eyes, and how much love he gives to the people (and animals, can’t forget the animals) he loves.

Kathleen is an incredible cook. Even more so, she’s an incredibly efficient cook. Many nights of the week, your average person would look at our fridge and either immediately call for pizza or resort to microwaving a frozen burrito (or frozen Trader Joes veggie dumplings, if I get my way). Kathleen, however, will not only insist that there is no need for a grocery run, but she’ll also whip up a healthy, tasty, veggie-laden meal in no time at all. She’s a wiz with sauces and I’m talking weird sauces that you’d never expect would work, usually involving yogurt.

There’s a restaurant in San Francisco, NOPA, that we went to when we first started dating. It has become our nostalgic San Francisco spot. We go on special occasions, and every time I walk in I feel like I’m transported to this time of us first being together—all of the feels.

The Seymour-Walker family has somehow grown to five over the past couple of years. We started out with a kitten, Emmie, in our first one-bedroom apartment together. Shortly thereafter we realized that a playmate would help direct some of Emmie’s devilish personality away from our legs, Kathleen's jewelry, and lit candles. So, naturally, we adopted a second kitten, Waldo. Somehow, a year later, we ended up with a two year old border-collie mix, Mila suffice to say we live in a zoo. But, this zoo is entertaining. We have passed many evenings sitting on the sofa in our living room, catching up or reading, and laughing as the animals wrestle, climb around in the cabinets, etc.

Sam is a magical note writer. He’ll leave little love notes under my pillow before I wake up, or at the coffee maker where he’ll know I’ll see them on an early morning. The most recent note from last Thursday reads (scribbled on a little torn piece of paper): “K, Dogs + cats + monsters fed. I love you. I can’t wait to see where life takes us, and I’m committed to this journey 100%. Today’s a great day and we have so much to be thankful for, including each other. Can’t wait to see you tonight! Love, Samwell”. Who write notes like that on a whim!? I absolutely take them for granted, and they make me smile every time I see them.

I can be a pretty critical person, and I’m quick to find faults with things and with others. Kathleen, on the other hand, has made the choice to maintain a glass-half-full perspective on everything; her boat just cannot be rocked. Kathleen’s consistent faith that things will work out and her persistence to see the positive are contagious and beautiful. Physically, I believe these qualities manifest through her smile, which is addictively warm and charming. Even for me, it’s hard to critique things when she’s flashing that big, broad movie-star smile.