He saw her about a week before his freshman year at the University of Arizona started.
He was hanging out with a group of friends. So was she.
And when she walked in the room, Alex Tovar thought for sure she was at least 22 or 23. "An actual woman," he said.
Kristin Tovar, however, was also starting school as a freshman and was close to the same age as Alex.
The two became instant friends. They had a connection.
"We were friends for about two and a half years then he studied abroad in Costa Rica and we started emailing back and forth a lot to the point I feel like we thought of each other as best friends," Kristin said.
"I couldn't call much," Alex said. "When I got homesick I'd email my friends and family and Kristin would respond the most, so we emailed a lot."
When he came back, Kristin hoped he would ask her out. She was dropping hints whenever she could, but it took months for Alex to catch on.
"I'm very slow at processing things and making decisions," Alex said. "Kristin makes up her mind quickly, so it took me like four months of us continuing to hang out. And then we were hanging out with friends and those friends went home and I ended up kissing her. And she was like, 'What was that?' And I was like, 'Maybe we should date.' And I didn't know what I was doing."
"He didn't really ask me out. He just left it there," Kristin said.
"A couple days later, she called me and said, 'No,'" Alex recalled.
"It wasn't the best kiss," Kristin said. "I was like, 'Oh, it wouldn't work between us because we had no chemistry.'"
So, they went their separate ways. Kristin moved to Washington, D.C. and then Phoenix. They stayed in touch as friends and eventually started hanging out again.
During that time, Alex's mom was diagnosed with cancer. She died in April 2008, about a year after the kiss.
"We weren't dating then, but she was super impacted by it," Alex said. "She was praying for me, that she wanted me to find an amazing wife."
In January 2011, Kristin asked Alex to get coffee with her. He thought it was a study date, so he brought his computer and books. She wanted to tell him that if he asked her out again, she would say yes.
"So, I brought out a drawing I did of a parking lot and it said 'not friends,' 'friends' and 'more than friends.' I took out a car with his name on it and said, 'I've been keeping you in the friends spot but have been thinking of moving you in the more-than-friends spot, but you can decide.' So, I left it at that and went home. I was pretty confident that we would be together."
This time it only took Alex a couple weeks to figure it out. They finally went out to dinner, and they started dating.
However, Kristin had already planned on moving to Seattle in February that year, so she moved away. The couple dated long distance, and the relationship remained strong. They knew it was going to work, so Kristin moved back three months later.
In November of that same year, Alex decided to propose.
"How I proposed is I recreated something like the parking lot thing, but in a real parking lot with a lot of help from friends," Alex said. "There was a friend zone spot. I made a huge collage of drawings and pictures of things we had done as friends. I walked her through that zone and said, 'You're my best friend. Here are some of our best memories.' Then I walked her to the next spot which was another collage. It was the more-than-friends spot, which was pictures, memories and drawings of the whole time we were dating. Then around the corner I made the wife spot. That one was all in white and on that one I had dreams for our future ... I drew kids on there, places to go and travel, and I had a big poster on the wall in front of the parking spot and it said, 'Wife spot. Reserved for Mrs. Tovar.' And that's where I got on one knee and proposed."
She said yes.
They got married in June 2012.
At the wedding, the couple did their own vows.
"Part of her vows mentioned how impacted she was by my mom's death, even though we weren't dating then," Alex said. "And she didn't realize that when my mom died, she was praying for herself to become my wife."
"That's when I realized how much I cared about you," Kristin said.
The first year
Kristin always wanted to live in a big city, but Alex had a good job in Tucson.
"We got married and are really happy and joyful about each other, but the first year of marriage, our biggest tension was Kristin didn't want to live in Tucson," Alex said. "She wanted to live in Seattle or New York or D.C., a city to get lost in."
Instead of dwelling on what she didn't like about Tucson, she decided to look at it like a tourist would. She started taking pictures of cool things around town and created an Instagram account, WhyILoveWhereILive, to post them on.
Seeking out and focusing on the beauty and character in Tucson taught Kristin to appreciate and love the city where she lived.
"For a while it was practicing gratitude and it was hard," Kristin said. "It was like 'fake it till you make it' and eventually it worked. And I do really love it ... If you're in a place, seek out the good in it for however long you're there."
"Now she loves Tucson, probably more than I do," Alex said.
Eventually, Kristin made the Instagram account public and people started following her. It slowly morphed into a community and movement inspiring people to love where they live and engage their local community.
Why I Love Where I Live hosts various events to encourage community. Check the website for info on upcoming events.
"It's cool to see how it's brought us closer together," Kristin said. "Our love has grown at the same time (as Why I Love Where I Live)."
Alex, 30 and Kristin, 31 have been married for almost five years, and together for almost seven. They live in Tucson with their two small children.
Kristin: I thought he was quiet and thoughtful and handsome. I felt like we had a connection right away even that first time we met. Like we understood each other on a deeper level.
Alex: I was a young 18-year-old freshman in college and she seemed like an early-20s-beautiful-actual woman. She was very quirky, kind of weird, but in a very fun way. And we had kind of like an underlying connection and chemistry, that we just kind of understood each other.
Kristin: I would say that Alex is really loyal and trustworthy. I can always count on him.
Alex: She's very, very creative and she makes everybody around her better. And she's very thoughtful of others. She's a maximizer. She maximizes people's attention and projects she's working on. Including me. She makes me a lot better of a man.
Quirky or endearing habit
Kristin: Even though he can come across as reserved, he can dance at any moment and tries to dance at any moment. He's a really good dancer, but a funny, fun dancer. His friend called him a straight-laced wild card, which is a great description. He seems like he's all together and then he's the life of the party.
Alex: You ask her a question and she answers it just like that. Even if it's a joke. I love how it takes no time for her to think and know what she's gonna say.
On raising kids together
Kristin: We just have so much fun together. Even when it's hard, we can still laugh about things or have a sense of humor. The good times are good and the bad times are still fun somehow.
Alex: Yeah. I think I picture one of the best things about raising kids together is when they're both asleep in bed and we're sitting up reminiscing about the cute thing Calvin did that day or the funny face Olivia made that day. We just sit back and enjoy those moments together.
Making time for creative passions
Kristin: For me a lot of it is incorporating our family into those things and not having it be something we do in isolation but something we do together as a family unit. So, I'll take Olivia with me to work meetings and when there's an opportunity to explain things about why we do what we do, it's huge. And being in those situations and meeting people in the community, it's made it easier for us to pursue things.
Alex: We're constantly working on things like Why I Love Where I Live when the kids go to bed, so we try to be pretty consistent with putting them to bed at a certain time so we know we're gonna have an hour or two hours or three hours to spend together.