Couple use red journal to bridge distance, share day-to-day thoughts


Alissa Jaster reads the red journal sent back and forth between her and Tyler VanSetten. (Photo courtesy of Julie Brock)

Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 4:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 4:20 p.m.

The idea came from something he'd seen on Pinterest.

Tyler VanSetten explained the concept: Buy a red journal and surprise your loved one by leaving it around the house with romantic, funny or cute notes in it.

"But that wouldn't work for us," he said of him and his girlfriend. VanSetten, 25, lives in Michigan, and his girlfriend, Alissa Jaster, 24, lives in Gainesville. So he tweaked the idea a bit.

He gave her a red journal as a Christmas gift last year and, as a first entry, Jaster wrote in it a history of their relationship.

When they were separated again, the journal became a series of letters to each other — thoughtful, handwritten and mailed back and forth about once a week.

The couple previously had exchanged cards, and Jaster often mentioned how much she liked receiving things in the mail. Both agree a text message or phone call pales in comparison to reading an entry in the journal.

"It's a lot like a love letter each time," VanSetten said, and, for Jaster, "It's a real way to document our relationship."

It played another important role in their story. When VanSetten flew down to visit Jaster in Gainesville last week, he told her he had forgotten the notebook. On Feb. 8, he picked her up from the O'Connell Center, where she works as a UF athletic training intern, and he took her on a walk around the campus in the direction of Lake Alice.

Soon they were in a secluded spot in a wooded area save for "a random lady on a bench." Jaster had no idea the "random lady" on the bench was a photographer VanSetten had hired and that he was about to ask her an important question.

As he asked her to marry him, the photographer, Julie Brock, did her best to slyly pull out her camera and capture the moment. Brock had in her possession the red notebook, and after VanSetten proposed, he gave it to Jaster. In it were all the thoughts he feared he would have forgotten to say during the proposal. Both Jaster and the photographer cried.

Though VanSetten and Jaster won't see each other again until April, they have the journal for now and wedding plans to sort out.

It is something they both plan on sharing with their future children and a tradition they say they will continue when they are living under the same roof. Jaster said she'll have to warn their children before they read it, because, "It's pretty sappy sometimes."

As for Valentine's Day, Jaster said she has sent the notebook back to VanSetten. Both have to work, but Jaster said they may FaceTime on Thursday night.

Maybe the Internet hasn't totally killed romance after all.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top