Ask an Expert // Should I reconnect with my ex?



Before you send an email or friend request to boy or girlfriends past, consider these 5 tips to guard your heart and your current relationship.

It’s the time of year that people often think about love and relationships. You may even be considering contacting an old sweetheart— perhaps seeking closure or feeling nostalgic or curious about what your ex is doing now. Deciding whether or not to contact an ex can be challenging and there can be pros and cons. The standard advice is, “Just don’t do it,” but depending on the situation it could potentially bring relief and closure. If you or someone you know is contemplating contacting an ex, consider these tips first.

  1. Ask yourself the tough questions such as: Why am I doing this? What am I hoping to achieve? How will I feel after communicating with this person? Will I be able to accept the outcome even if it doesn’t go the way I hope it will?
  2. Consider your current mental, emotional and physical state. If you are currently feeling angry, tired, lonely or discouraged about your current life situations delay making contact.
  3. If you are currently in a relationship, be sure to discuss the situation with your current partner and establish clear boundaries about contact with the opposite sex (and especially exes) that you are both comfortable with. If you do choose to contact your ex, be open and transparent with your partner about any communication that you have with the ex, including text messages or social media messages.
  4. Even with clear boundaries set, it is important to keep in mind that familiarity can potentially lead to high levels of emotion and it can be hard to not misinterpret the feelings to mean that what you used to have is better than what you have now. Additionally, individuals are also often more open about sharing intimate feelings over social media or text messages which can lead to feeling intense emotions. With that in mind, guard your heart, be careful about what you share, and remember there is a reason he or she is an ex.
  5. If you do decide to contact your ex, be up front about why you are contacting them, be brief, and don’t try to continue to contact them if they don’t respond. Remember, they may not have the same desire to reconnect or may be respecting the boundaries of their current relationship.

    This article was written by Naomi Brower, USU Extension associate professor, Weber County

5 Positivity Power-Ups

positivityWinter can be a difficult time for many people. The days are dark and cold, and it is easy to let that affect your mood. Try some of these positivity power-ups to lift your spirits as you push through to spring.

Positivity can provide a powerful boost to physical and mental health, productivity, relationships with others, and can even lead to an increase in lifespan. On the other hand, negativity can be harmful to physical and mental health, damage careers, and destroy relationships.

Consider focusing on these steps to increase the positivity in your life:


  • Keep it positive. Keep conversations positive and steer clear of comments that are negative or degrading toward others or yourself. If you catch yourself saying something negative, make an effort to change it to a more positive comment instead.
  • Tip the scales to the positive. Research has found that happy relationships have about five positive interactions to every one negative. While it’s ok to express concerns or frustrations, be sure to also express sincere words of appreciation or other positive words to keep the relationship in the positive.
  • Focus on what is right. While is isn’t possible to change how others act or have control over some situations, drawing attention to the things that are going right can help to set a more positive tone for interactions and increase positive emotions.
  • Make it personal. Genuinely caring for others sets positivity in motion that is often reciprocated. Examples of this might include listening to others with unconditional positive regard and providing support and encouragement.
  • Share the positivity. Making an effort to have positive thoughts and interactions sets off a chain of positivity that often amplifies positive emotions and can have a powerful positive impact on others. Examples of this might include doing something nice for someone, giving a compliment, or just writing down all the things that went well today.


Being positive can have a powerful impact on the world. Sharing an uplifting word or giving a small act of kindness can create a ripple effect of positivity. What will you do today to increase the positivity in your life?

This article was written by Naomi Brower, USU Extension associate professor, Weber County

How Full is Your Bucket: Positive Strategies for Work and Life by Tom Rath & Donald Clifton.


Six Tips to Rekindle the Spark in Your Relationship

rekindleYou don’t have to wait for February 14 to roll around to think about how to strengthen your relationship. Check out these six tips for rekindling the spark in your relationship. 

1. Find and make time to spend one-on-one with your partner.

Put distractions (i.e. cell phones) aside and enjoy the time and conversation with each other. Go on favorite dates and mix in new activities to explore new interests.

2. Share acts of love and kindness.

Valentine’s Day is coming up, but find ways all year long to share acts of love and kindness. Leave notes under pillows or in lunch boxes. Drop by each other’s work with a treat. Come home with a fun surprise or take your partner on a quick surprise outing for a drink or ice cream.

3. Think before you speak.

When it comes to arguments and differences of opinions, take a step back and reflect on how important the point of argument is. Is it really worth putting your foot down? Is there room for compromise?

4. Be a good listener.

When discussing matters, be a good listener. Don’t interrupt— wait for your turn to speak. When speaking, repeat what you heard to summarize what you understand that you heard. Then use “I” statements by saying “I feel [what feeling?] when [this happens] because [why you feel that way]. Even better when you can follow up with a request. For example, “I feel frustrated when you leave for the gym before you help clean the kitchen, because I am left to do all the work on my own and it takes the rest of my evening. Next time can you please help me quickly right after we are done eating?”

5. Make each other smile.

Capitalize on inside jokes to make special moments of connection. Replay the inside jokes occasionally during conversations, or in texts or emails. This should be sure to make you both smile.

6. Keep traditions alive— or create new ones.

Remember anniversaries and special dates with a date, a gift, or a note. Consider re-creating favorite activities yearly, such as an evening out to a Jazz game or a concert.

Find Out More

Looking for more ways to strengthen your relationship? Plan a date night and attend the Marriage Celebration on February 3 at Weber State University, or the Date Your Mate Celebration on February 10 at the Viridian Event Center in West Jordan.

This article was written by Melanie Jewkes, Utah State University Extension associate professor, Salt Lake County

20 Holiday Tradition Ideas to Bring Families Together

holiday-traditions-graphicYear to year your kids may forget what gifts they have given and received, but they will always remember the traditions you do together as a family.Try adding one of these activities to your annual holiday traditions.

Family traditions are beliefs and customs that are passed down to our children to be carried on by future generations. Traditions foster closeness between family members, provide family stability and create feelings of belonging. Our values and beliefs are often reinforced through family traditions. Family traditions do not have to be elaborate or expensive. The significance of a tradition is for families to have time to relate and communicate with one another. Spending quality time together helps affirm values, faith and life experiences while celebrating the season.

  1. Watch Christmas shows together with hot chocolate and popcorn.
  2. Make your own Christmas cards to send to family and friends.
  3. Donate clothes or toys to a local shelter.
  4. Make decorating the Christmas tree a family event.
  5. Bake and decorate cookies to take to a neighbor.
  6. Go caroling.
  7. Take a special drive at night to enjoy Christmas lights.
  8. Collect pine cones and use them to make ornaments.
  9. Read one Christmas story each night before bed, or have your children write and act out a Christmas play.
  10. Go sledding, and then enjoy hot cider or hot chocolate at home.
  11. Have a campout night using sleeping bags under your lighted Christmas tree.
  12. Make paper snowflakes to decorate your windows.
  13. Light up your walkway or driveway with handmade luminaries.
  14. Learn how different cultures celebrate Christmas.
  15. Create a calendar so your children can count down the days until Christmas.
  16. Have a Christmas past, present and future evening. Look through old photo albums/scrapbooks to celebrate Christmas past. Discuss what makes Christmas special for each family member to celebrate Christmas present and talk about hopes and dreams for the coming years to celebrate Christmas future.
  17. Make gingerbread people out of brown grocery sacks. These make great gift tags for presents. Glue on googly eyes and candy canes to add dimension to your gingerbread people.  
  18. Make snow globes with old food jars.
  19. Have your children help you prepare a special family recipe that has been passed down through generations.
  20. Have a gift wrapping party.

Family traditions will create lasting memories, so whatever your traditions may be, remember to have fun and enjoy the time you are spending with family.  

This article was written by Shannon Cromwell, M.A., Extension Assistant Professor, Family & Consumer Sciences, Utah State University Extension, Sanpete County, 435-283-3472, shannon.cromwell@usu.edu

Don’t Let Aging Get You Down // Healthy Connections


This is the last installment in our aging series. Read part one on mobility and part two on healthy eating. Whether you are aging yourself, or caring for an aging loved-one, this series offers some great tips to help you.

Attitude is the one thing that can change any situation for better or worse.  As you age, you may find the things that came easily before are now difficult.  You may have habits that can be hard to quit, though you want to change.  Aging can bring discouragement and great joy just like every other stage of life, but whatever happens, we control our outlook.

Much of success and positive health is how you choose to view your circumstances.  Ask yourself, “How will I react the next time I receive bad news?”  Making the best out of what you are given can be the difference between joy and depression.

Sometimes it doesn’t work to just tell yourself to think positive. What else can you do to improve your attitude toward life?  Consider being more grateful, serving others, and being social.

  1. Be grateful: Look for the good in your life. You may be surprised there is more than you realized when you actually start paying attention. As you recognize the good in your life your attitude will naturally improve.  The Utah State University Extension website has some great advice on how to increase personal gratitude.  You can check it out here.
  2. Serve others: You can serve your own family or serve members in your community.  try cooking for a neighbor in need, make blankets for humanitarian kits, or help someone with yard work.  You can also volunteer at your local extension office, more information can be found here. There are many opportunities to serve and they all help keep your mind off your own troubles as you share joy with those you serve.
  3. Find a hobby: If you already live an active lifestyle you may be doing regular activities like tennis, jogging, swimming, fishing etc.; but for some it may hard to transition from taking care of children to being an empty-nester.  If possible, continue personal hobbies through all stages of life.  If you are just getting back into the groove of things, try looking up local classes and events you can attend.  For example, community education classes, lectures, college courses, certifications, concerts, theatrical productions, sports events.  Local senior centers may have social dancing, crafts, line dancing, ceramics, golf, and more.  Learning something new and meeting new people is a great way to improve your attitude.

Moving into your 50’s and 60’s opens up the opportunity to participate in your local Senior Center Activities.  Most activities provided are free; all you need to do is show up.  If you don’t have transportation, find someone willing to drive you.

My grandmother is taking care of my grandfather and has much weighing on her shoulders, but she has continued a positive attitude through her struggles by keeping fun hobbies and habits.  She goes out to get her nails and hair done which also allows her to socialize with her stylist.  She has weekly bridge games she attends with other community friends.  She is a perfect example of how socializing and keeping a good attitude helps you have great quality of life as you age.



This article was written by Kirsten Lamplugh, Intern at the Salt Lake County USU Extension office, BS in Family and Consumer Sciences 


USU Extension – http://extension.usu.edu/htm/news-multimedia/articleID=4002

Live Well Utah Blog – https://livewellutah.org/2015/02/14/spread-the-love-by-volunteering/

Family Mealtime // Crispy Granola 3 Ways


Family mealtime can be anytime- why not at breakfast? Mix up some delicious granola on the weekend for a fast and easy weekday family breakfast option. Use your family’s favorite mix-ins, or try one of our suggested variations.

Crispy Granola

Adapted from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 3 cups uncooked rolled oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins, or other dried fruit (option)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Put egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Stir in honey, cinnamon, and salt. Add oats and all other ingredients (except dried fruit). Stir until ingredients are coated with egg mixture. Spread mixture on baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from pan, add dried fruit if using, and cool completely. Granola will continue to crisp as it cools. Store in an airtight container.


Pumpkin Spice: substitue pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, pure maple syrup for the honey, use pumpkin seeds for nuts, and add 1 tablespoon chia seeds.

Tropical Crunch: use macadamia nuts, yogurt covered raisins and/or chopped dried pineapple.

Cherry Garcia: use sliced almonds, dried cherries, and add semisweet chocolate chips when granola is cool.


September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 

Family Mealtime // Conversation Starters


Break the silence at the dinner table with these fun conversation starters! 

10 Questions to Get Your Family Talking

Struggling to find something to talk about? Read through these conversation starters at each meal to get the chatter rolling. Create some crazy questions of your own when these run out.

  • If you were in the circus, what circus act would you perform?
  • If you could do anything all day, everyday, what would it be?
  • If you could fly in a hot air balloon over any place in the world, where would you go?
  • If you had to wear a hat everyday, what type of hat would you choose?
  • Share your favorite tradition for each of the four seasons.
  • If you could choose one super power to have, what would you choose?
  • What is a new food you would like to try?
  • Name three famous people you would like to have dinner with.
  • What is your favorite vegetable?
  • What is your favorite outside activity?


Did you know?

Children who participate in consistent family mealtimes perform better academically and develop larger vocabularies.

September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 

Become a Better Partner by Using Assertive Statements 

Become a better partner

Happy Family Friday! This week learn how to approach conflict in a relationship or marriage.

It can be hard to approach your partner when there is conflict in a relationship or marriage. Oftentimes, humans err in three ways when there is something difficult to discuss: 1) We become too aggressive, saying things in a harsh tone that we will later regret; 2) We are not assertive enough, shutting down quickly when trying to explain our point of view; or 3) We avoid confrontation entirely because we don’t like conflict or feel it won’t help. Fall within one of these three categories? Try using assertive statements the next time an issue arises.

Assertive Statements

Assertive statements are loving ways to express a thought, feeling or desire that could create tension or conflict within a relationship; each statement is finished with something you’d like to see changed, such as:

  1. What I would like from you in our relationship is…
  2. What I could do for you that would help our relationship is…
  3. What I would like for you to do more in our relationship is…
  4. What I would like for us to do differently is…

If you’d like to create your own assertive statements, make sure they identify what you are feeling in the situation and are not accusatory to your partner. Using “I” based assertive statements rather than accusatory “you” statements allows you to acknowledge your feelings in a non-threatening and inoffensive way. This act of less accusation will lead to a more conducive environment for problem solving, which is vital in building happy, healthy relationships.

Learn more

Want to learn more tips for your relationships? Healthy Relationships Utah offers FREE Couple LINKS courses that teach concepts like assertive statements and many others. This research-based course is great for couples who want to build happy relationships or repair distressed ones. To learn more, visit healthyrelationshipsutah.org.

This article was written by Megan Hargraves, Media Specialist with Healthy Relationships Utah, megan.hargraves@usu.edu.

Ask an Expert: 6 Tips to Create Successful Family Mealtimes

Successful Family Mealtime Graphic

Success in school could be as easy as having family dinner each night. Find out why, and get six tips on how to make that family mealtime happen.


With back to school right around the corner, parents and children are hopeful for a successful school year. Parents would go to any length to help their children achieve in all aspects of life; socially, emotionally and academically. But what if all it took to help children succeed was an hour or even less on most days of the week? Taking just one hour of your day to share a meal with your family has benefits that reach well beyond the dining room table.

Research suggests that children who regularly participate in family mealtimes perform better academically, develop larger vocabularies and have better communication skills than children who do not eat as a family (Utter et al., 2013, Quarmby, T. & Dagkas, S., 2013). These same children are also more likely to have overall healthier diets, consume more fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy body weight and struggle with disordered eating less frequently (Gillman, 2000). They are also less likely to engage in risky behavior such as tobacco, drug and alcohol use (Utter et al., 2013).  Families experience stronger family bonds and have more positive interactions when they enjoy meals together (Utter et al., 2013). Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Despite all of these documented benefits, tight schedules and budgets often keep families from having meals together as often as they would like. Follow the tips below to create enjoyable and successful family mealtimes in your home.

  1. Plan meals ahead of time. If you already know what you are going to make, you will be more likely to actually do it. Planning also helps ensure you have all the ingredients you need.
  1. Schedule a set time for meals. Knowing that dinner is at 6 p.m. will allow family members to schedule other activities around dinnertime. But, remember family mealtime isn’t just for dinner. If everyone is more available on weekend mornings, make breakfast your family meal.
  1. Involve family members in the meal planning, preparation and clean-up. This lightens the load for everyone. Having family members involved in the planning will also ensure that everyone has at least some meals they like during the week.
  1. Unplug for dinner. No television, phones or other devices allowed. Family mealtimes are beneficial because it is a time for your family to share about the day and reconnect with each other through conversation.
  1. Keep conversation at family meals positive. Try to keep family mealtimes an enjoyable experience. They are not the best place for disciplining children or arguing with spouses. Try using a conversation jar with fun topics to keep the chatter light and enjoyable.
  1. Keep it simple. Family mealtimes do not have to be gourmet; they just have to be together. Find ideas and recipes for simple, healthy meals on the Food $ense website, extension.usu.edu/foodsense.


This article was written by Casey Coombs, RD, CD; Policy, Systems, and Environments Coordinator, Utah State University Food $ense, casey.coombs@usu.edu.


Gillman, M. (2000). Family dinner and diet quality among older children and adolescents. Archives of Family Medicine, 9(3), 235-240.

Quarmby, T., & Dagkas, S. (2013). Informal mealtime pedagogies: Exploring the influence of family structure on young people’s healthy eating dispositions. Sport, Education and Society, 20(3), 323-339.

Utter, J., Denny, S., Robinson, E., Fleming, T., Ameratunga, S., & Grant, S. (2013). Family meals and the well-being of adolescents. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 49(11), 906-911.


Smart Dating: 12 Questions to Answer About Your Partner’s Conscience

Smart Dating- Concience Graphic

These 12 questions will help you determine your partner’s conscience.

Much of how a person acts in a relationship is related to the maturity and functioning of his/her conscience. A partner with a poor conscience is one who leaves you feeling forgotten, unappreciated and unloved over and over again. Your conscience has two functions: to monitor your actions and attitudes and to transport you into another’s perspective that prompts understanding and compassion.

You don’t want to find yourself dating a person with a poor conscience, or worse, married to one.  How do you determine if a potential partner has a poor conscience? We’ve compiled a list of 12 questions you can answer about a person to help you find out!

  1. How consistent are they with attitudes and behaviors they say and believe?
  2. What do they feel strongly about? Right and wrong?
  3. How do they handle it when they are wrong?
  4. How defensive are they?
  5. What type of things make them feel guilty?
  6. Do they understand and validate your perspective?
  7. How do they respond to your explanation of your view and feelings?
  8. How do they react to authority figures?
  9. How controlling are they?
  10. What special things do they do for you?
  11. What are their moods like? How stable or unstable are they?
  12. How much attention do they give to your needs — both spoken and unspoken?


Note: It takes about three months for deep-seeded patterns to show in a relationship. For this reason, it may be hard to determine if a person has a poor conscience if you have not known him or her for very long.

Want to learn more concepts like these? Register for a FREE “How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk (or Jerkette)” course offered by Healthy Relationships Utah. This course is a research-based, smart dating course for singles who want to form healthy relationships.  Courses are available throughout all of Utah. To learn more or register, visit healthyrelationshipsutah.org.

This article was written by Megan Hargraves, Media Specialist with Healthy Relationships Utah, megan.hargraves@usu.edu.