Pine trees with the caption in white letters November 2022: '16 Rules for Living With Less' + Anti-Social Advent

November 2022: ’16 Rules for Living With Less’ + Anti-Social Advent

What were you grateful for this Thanksgiving? Here’s the monthly recap: 

Best Book I Read This Month 

My recommendation this month is a little different. I was recently introduced to the work of The Minimalists (their Patreon content is definitely worth the small cost), and they offer a free ebook that is a great short read. You can find 16 Rules for Living With Less for free here. 

Best Article I Read This Month

What time is it? Time for some shameless self-promotion! Really, I want to share this article with you all not because I wrote it but because I want people to have the information it contains. “A Consumer’s Quick Guide to Environmental Certifications” is available to read here. 

Tip + Trick of the Month

This one is short and snappy from Becoming Minimalist’s Joshua Becker: “The less you own, the easier organizing becomes.” 

Quote of the Month

“It only takes five minutes to break the cycle. Five minutes of exercise and you are back on the path. Five minutes of writing and the manuscript is moving forward again. Five minutes of conversation and the relationship is restored. It doesn’t take much to feel good again.” 

-James Clear, author of Atomic Habits 

Kelvey’s Thought for the Month

This Advent season, want to get anti-social with me? 

I’m not talking about ignoring your friends and family. (Although, depending on the person and the calendar, it might be worth taking time to do that too.) 

I’m talking about getting off social media. 

Advent is the second period of time when I typically take an extended social media break (with the first being Lent). Both of these seasons are times that encourage us to turn toward Christ. But Advent does this by prompting us to slow down, to turn off the noise, to wait. 

Now, I have to add some nuance here and tell you that I’ll still be on social media for work during the weekdays. Social media management is a huge part of my job, and maybe it is part of your job too. I think that’s a little different. 

Outside of work? I can add to the limits I already put on my social media by completely turning it off. I can step away from the frenzied pace, comparison game, and anger perpetuated on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

I can slow down. I can turn off the noise. I can wait. 

And maybe you will too. If you want to dial down the volume on the world this Advent season so that you can focus more on Christ our King, this may be a practice for you. 

And I’d love to hear if it is. Feel free to hit the reply button on your email or the comment button on Substack and let me know if you’re joining me this season. 

Just don’t tweet me. I won’t see it. 🙂 

Merry Christmas. I’ll catch you next month.

A black background with a white skull sketch and the words October 2022: 'Remarkably Bright Creatures' + Memento Mori

October 2022: ‘Remarkably Bright Creatures’ + Memento Mori

I’m still mourning that Halloween has passed…but here’s your monthly recap anyway: 

Best Book I Read This Month 

Remarkably Bright Creatures was a brilliant work of fiction. Even being as animal obsessed as I am, I was stunned by how much I grew to love a non-human character. If you want a refreshingly different read (or are landlocked and just yearning to be near the sea), this is for you. Find it here. 

Best Article I Read This Month

In honor of Election Day being right around the corner, I wanted to share the landing page for voter guides from Reason Foundation, the think tank where I work. Have a question about a ballot initiative in your state? It’s probably been covered here. 

Tip + Trick of the Month

Read constantly, don’t want to spend money buying books, and don’t have time to get to the library? Libby will be your best friend. As long as you have a card with a participating library, you can use the app to read or listen to all sorts of books. I’ve read over 50 books this year, and 95% of them were read through Libby. Find the app here. 

Quote of the Month

“When you sin, do a thorough job of repenting. Re-hate sin all over again. Consecrate yourself afresh to the Holy Spirit and his pure ways. But reject the devil’s whisper that God’s tender heart for you has grown a little colder, a little stiffer. He is not flustered by your sinfulness. His deepest disappointment is with your tepid thoughts of his heart. Christ died, placarding before you the love of God.” -Dane C. Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly

Kelvey’s Thought for the Month

Memento mori. 

It’s a phrase I’ve been considering a lot this week. 

It’s Latin. “Remember that you must die.” 

Some may cringe at this as being too grim. Too morbid. But memento mori acknowledges the one ending for all humans on this earth: We will die. 

How do you spend your days? How do you spend your one life? Where are you destined once your time on this earth is spent? 

Memento mori. Remember that you must die. How will you live in light of that reminder? 

Take time to be grateful as we head into this Thanksgiving season. I’ll catch you next month.

A photo of Kelvey's dogs overlaid on a pink background with the words September 2022: 'The Little Book of Hygge' + How To Feed A Vegetarian on it

September 2022: ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ + How To Feed A Vegetarian

September, you were great. Here’s your monthly recap: 

Best Book I Read This Month 

The Danes have a word for all things comforting and cozy: hygge. As we start facing colder weather, learning more about hygge seemed appropriate. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking was an excellent primer on the concept. Learn more here. 

Best Article I Read This Month

Shameless self-promotion, once again. In early September, I wrote about ways to have a sustainable fall season for America’s Future. You can read the piece here

Tip + Trick of the Month

We took our mini dachshund and mini schnauzer on a road trip at the beginning of the month and ended up doing a little bit of mountain hiking. They kept up! My tip for you? Don’t assume that your little dog doesn’t want to go places and do things with you. They love it as much as big dogs. 

Kelvey Vander Hart's dogs on top of a mountain
Watson (L) and Missi (R) enjoy their mountain views.

Quote of the Month

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.” -Annie Dilllard

Kelvey’s Thought for the Month

I’ve been a vegetarian for years now, and I get one question constantly: What can I feed you? 

My friends and family are very sweet and want to make sure I can eat with them. However, feeding a vegetarian always seems more complicated than it actually turns out to be. To help you feed your next vegetarian, here are a few ideas for you: 

  • Pasta is always a good option. Very simple to let people add the meat to their own dishes. 
  • Already getting a supreme or cheese pizza for the party? Congrats. You just fed the vegetarian. 
  • Sides are a vegetarian’s best friend. Mac and cheese, vegetables, BREAD, etc. I always joke that Thanksgiving food is even better now that I don’t have to save obligatory space for turkey that should really just belong to mashed potatoes. 
  • If looking for a restaurant, Mexican, Asian, and Italian food are safe bets. Numerous fast food places (Taco Bell, Burger King, Starbucks, your local sandwich joint) are also awesome options. 

In the end, know this one thing: To feed a vegetarian, just make sure they’re not eating meat. If you’re worried about dairy and eggs, you’re thinking about vegans. And honestly? I would need to write for a lot longer to help you feed a vegan. 

Enjoy your spooky season. I’ll catch you next month.

Black and purple background with a photo of two hands holding a coffee mug across a white table and white text reading: August 2022: 'The Gospel Comes with a House Key' + Easy Hospitality

August 2022: ‘The Gospel Comes with a House Key’ + Easy Hospitality

Summer’s pretty much over. Mourn if you want, but I’m stoked for the fall. But first, a look back at summer. Here’s your August 2022 recap:  

Best Book I Read This Month 

My favorite writer on Christian hospitality and reaching your community is Rosaria Butterfield. Her testimony is wild, and her writing is convicting. The Gospel Comes with a House Key was the read I needed. Find it here. 

Best Article I Read This Month

Even though it will, theoretically, relieve a burden for some right here and now, there are a LOT of problems with Biden’s student loan ‘forgiveness’ proposal. A key element not being widely discussed? The fact that the sacrifice of many is considered less difficult than living with debt. I identified greatly with this piece by my Reason colleague, Fiona Harrigan. Read it here. 

Tip + Trick of the Month

An older set of shortcuts that are all over the internet but still hold very true…

If you feel like everyone hates you, you need to sleep.

If you feel like you hate everyone, you need to eat. 

If you feel like you hate you, you need to shower. 

Pick your fighter and go forth. 

Quote of the Month

“When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.” -C.S. Lewis

Kelvey’s Thought for the Month

Want to know how to make awesome box mix brownies? Get the cheapest mix you can find (Aldi, y’all), use olive oil instead of vegetable oil while making it, and add in a few chocolate chips. They will be glorious and fudgy and make your friends go wild. 

On-hand brownie mixes are a key component of hospitality here in my house. Other components include keeping a bottle of wine and coffee around, having mood lights and candles that make everything warmer, and keeping to an easy, consistent cleaning schedule. Why are these relevant to hospitality? 

Because when someone needs to come cry on my couch or rant about their day, when someone needs a night away from their home, a few little tricks make that hospitality EASY. You can lean in and listen while treats are in the oven and not stress about feeding people or the state of your home. 

Make hospitality easy on yourself, and you’ll engage in it more. 

Enjoy the start of college football season (go Hawkeyes!). I’ll catch you next month.

Green leaves in the background with white text overlaid and a white frame around

July 2022: ‘Things That Matter’ + Resisting Consumerism

We’re more than halfway through 2022. Wild, right? Here’s your July 2022 recap: 

Best Book I Read This Month 

Many people think that minimalism is about getting rid of things until you have one lonely chair sitting in your pretty empty home. But what if minimalism was about refining your life to live on purpose? Joshua Becker explores this concept in his books. Because I’ve been reading a lot of Becker’s work, this month is a two-for-one recommendation. Find out more about Becker’s Things That Matter and The More of Less here. 

Best Article I Read This Month

Shameless self-promotion here. July played host to Shark Week! I love sharks and I love writing – read the combination of these loves here. 

Tip + Trick of the Month

July was all about minimalism on the homefront. Have an overabundance of towels and blankets that have seen better days? Don’t throw them away – take them to your local animal shelter! As someone who has volunteered for two different shelters and has a shelter pup of her own, I can testify that there is always a need for more soft things for dogs and other animals to sleep on. 

Quote of the Month

“Often, Christians ask me, ‘How can I love my neighbor without misleading her into thinking I approve of everything she does?’ First, remember that Christians cannot give good answers to bad questions. No one approves of everything that others do. No one. It is a false question. The better question is this: ‘How can my neighbors know that because I live under God’s authority rather than the compulsions of my own selfish desires, their secrets are safe with me?’ The answer is simple: love the sinner and hate your own sin. Or, as Mark says ‘Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another’ (Mark 9:50).”

-Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key

Kelvey’s Thought for the Month

As Americans, we’re conditioned to think that more is better. That is the very heart of consumerism. But what if we start to resist that notion? 

I know I have been harping on minimalism throughout this entire monthly update, but I think regardless of how strongly/loosely you hold to such tenets, there is goodness for everyone to find here. As of late in my own life, it has been a freeing resistance to consumerism. Do you know how good it feels to walk through a store and have my brain be thinking about how happy it is to not bring unnecessary items into my home rather than wanting to buy everything? 

Something to think about. Hit the comments or the reply button if you have your own thoughts on this and, as always, I’ll catch you next month.

Photo of a Des Moines, Iowa bridge at night with white text overlaid

June 2022: Holier Than Thou + A Note on Processing

The fireworks in my neighborhood are dying down, so it’s official – it’s time for the June 2022 recap:

Best Book I Read This Month 

If God is holy, He can’t sin against me. If God can’t sin against me, He is the most trustworthy being to exist. Jackie Hill Perry breaks down God’s holiness in a tangible, convicting way in Holier Than Thou: How God’s Holiness Helps Us Trust Him. Get it here. 

Best Article I Read This Month

The concept of Jurassic Park is good, actually. Matthew Yglesias over at Slow Boring explained why. Read it here!

Tip + Trick of the Month

In light of SCOTUS’ concerning decision regarding Miranda rights, this thread from former Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate Spike Cohen is helpful: 

Quote of the Month

“This is the promise of minimalism: to rejoice at the sight of all the things we do not need. And to have our lives finally freed to pursue the things we want to do.” -Joshua Becker, The More of Less

Kelvey’s Thought for the Month

Early in June, an evening walk ended in me witnessing a shooting and the murder of a young woman. To close this edition of the newsletter, I wanted to share some lightly edited thoughts I originally shared a week after the event took place: 

“This week was hard. Lots of lost sleep, prayer, and conversations with dear friends. Thank you for your prayers and messages. Monday night, I was present at the shooting that took the life of Elizabeth Arzola. 

I was out for a walk at my favorite place in Des Moines, a walk I take most nights. I never imagined the night would end in Elizabeth’s murder or that I would bear witness to it. Please keep praying for her family and those who were with her that night – their screams will never leave my head. 

Trying to process this trauma over the past week has left me thinking a lot about safety. I can’t help but think about how fast I was walking, the conversation I was having with a friend, and the geese and skateboarders we stopped to watch. If any of that timing had changed for us (or for anyone else on that hill that night), if we had walked even slightly faster or not stopped at all, we might not be here today. That night was determined by seconds, and I can’t make sense of why Elizabeth is gone and the rest of us are not. The feeling of safety in that place has been shattered, but it was a reminder that safety is an absolute illusion. 

I’ve lived through horrible car accidents, head injuries, illness, threats. But I’ve also lived through waking and sleeping, going about my day, and acting as if my frail humanity is not reliant on God for every breath I take. Life isn’t safe. We pretend it is. But I might go to sleep tonight and not wake up. I might step in front of a bus, hit my head too hard, or catch an incurable disease. 

Removing the illusion of safety is enough to make you cry and stop living, to sit inside your house and panic. Life isn’t safe. The ONLY assurance I have in this life is that it is held by the God who aligns planets and breathes out galaxies, who unbelievably cares for me too. I know that when that day comes when life’s lack of safety catches up to me, I’ll be home with Him. Do you know Him? I pray you do. Life isn’t safe. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Please run to your Creator.”

Have a great July. I’ll see you next month.

May 2022 I Hate Running and You Can Too + Doing Over Data

May 2022: I Hate Running and You Can Too + Doing Over Data

Is it officially summer now? Here’s a May recap as we head into June. 

Best Book I Read This Month 

Running is not my workout of choice. It isn’t even my cardio of choice. But after listening to Brendan Leonard, creator of the Semi-Rad brand, on a podcast, I had to pick one of his books up. I Hate Running and You Can Too is, in my opinion, not just for people who want to run (although it will definitely get you athletically motivated). I think it’s a great (short, funny, visual…) read for anyone thinking about doing and discipline. Buy it or learn more here. 

Best Article I Read This Month

Okay…I’m shamelessly promoting my own work this month instead of a different author’s piece. I recently spent some time in New York City (hence the Phantom of the Opera photo in the header) and was excited to see all the ferry terminal information boards highlighting projects I had written about, and am even more excited now that the piece has officially published. Coastal cities have coastal problems – oysters are one cool solution. Read it here. 

Tip + Trick of the Month

Get sneaky about your food to hit your goals. Need to up your protein? Buy protein pasta, dress every possible dish up with Greek yogurt, sneak protein powder into desserts. Need to eat more leafy greens? Blend them up, saute them into a pasta dish, cook them so you can’t tell they’re there. You don’t have to be miserable to win in the kitchen, just clever. 

And trying to give up meat but can’t quite make it work? Let me know. I can help.

Quote of the Month

“Forget the noun, do the verb.” -Austin Kleon

Kelvey’s Thought for the Month

Yesterday, I managed to snap my Apple Watch off my wrist in the gym parking lot and the screen shattered. (Yes, I now know that they make tempered glass screen protectors for your smartwatch too.) After staring at my broken screen for a good long minute, do you know what I nearly did? 

I nearly got back in my car and left instead of walking into the gym and working out. 

Setting aside the fact that yesterday was the Mondayest Tuesday ever, why did that thought pop into my head? I was literally standing outside the gym, and I’m a person who enjoys working out. But those factors didn’t seem to matter in the moment – what mattered is that I wouldn’t have the data from the workout. 

I wouldn’t be seeing the calories burned and steps counted. I wouldn’t be seeing how long the workout was. I wouldn’t be contributing toward any of my automatically recorded digital goals. 

Be proud, reader – I still went in and checked off leg day. But that thought process served as a warning to me that I would like to pass along. We all treat data as king, but it is the actual doing that is most important, not the recording of the doing. Take that as you will, apply it liberally. 

Have a great June. I’ll see you next month.

April 2022: Greenlights + Build Back Better (Habits)

April 2022: Greenlights + Build Back Better (Habits)

Here’s hoping your Monday went well and that your May is off to a great start! April 2022 was far too cold, but I still shivered my way through a full month to recap for you: 

Best Book I Read This Month 

I read my first celebrity memoir, and I think it’ll probably be my last celebrity memoir. Matthew McCounaughey’s Greenlights was a wild ride. Beautiful quotes and wise advice were interspersed with stories so crazy they must be true (partially because a good number of them reflected very poorly on him, his family, and other loved ones). It was an entertaining and bewildering read, and you can get the book here. 

Best Article I Read This Month

I swear I read journalism from other outlets and not just from the magazine I work for, but Reason has so many good takes it would be a crime to not share. Enjoy this longform read from our May 2022 issue talking about the pandemic, social networks, and old-time saloons. 

Tip + Trick of the Month

Do you want to cut back on mindless social media scrolling? Set time limits on your phone, but let someone you live with set the password. And DO NOT let them tell you what it is. I share a house with my sister, and since having her set my phone’s time limits, I am far more exacting in my social media use. I’m not exaggerating when I say it has reduced my phone use by hours every week. 

Quote of the Month

“If you are part of Christ’s own body, your sins evoke his deepest heart, his compassion and pity. He ‘takes part with you’—that is, he’s on your side. He sides with you against your sin, not against you because of your sin. He hates sin. But he loves you.” 

-Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly

Kelvey’s Thought for the Month

I was in great shape when I was in college, but by the time 2021 rolled around, I couldn’t say the same. Between gym closures, reduced outings, and food delivery, the pandemic took the same toll on me that it did on everyone else. Couple that with a newly diagnosed thyroid disorder, and I lost a lot of muscle mass while putting on inches and generally losing a lot of my former healthy habits. 

2022 has been my rebuilding year, and I’ve rebuilt with wellness (not just muscles or hard workouts) in mind. Here are some of the simple habits that have had me feeling better, building more muscle, and leading a healthier life than I have in years. Steal if they work for you! 

  • Prioritizing Enough Quality Sleep
  • Getting 150 Grams of Daily Protein
  • Maintaining Average Calorie and Macro Consumption
  • Averaging 70,000 Weekly Steps
  • Building An Adjustable Workout Schedule

That’s all for now, folks. Have a great May – I’ll catch you next month.

Your monthly recap from kelveyolivia.com is here.

March 2022: The Club + Shark Attack Documentaries

Happy Monday! I wanted to steer very clear of April Fools Day, so here’s a delayed monthly recap for your morning. 

Best Book I Read This Month 

The Club was one of those books I checked out on a whim but found myself recommending immediately after finishing. Plot twist after effortless plot twist. It has been a long time since I turned the final few pages of a book with truly no idea how it was going to end. Highly recommend it if you are needing a good piece of fiction. (Fair warning though, this is not for the kids.) 

Best Article I Read This Month

When picking my favorite article from each month, I automatically go look at the ones I have shared on Facebook – it’s a pretty good barometer for what I find interesting enough to share. There were so many good ones this month, but I think the most important story I could share is this profile on a high-risk pregnancy in prison. Devastating. The handling of prison pregnancies is a place where pro-lifers and criminal justice reformers (both of which I consider myself to be) should be teaming up to enact change. 

Tip + Trick of the Month

This comes from James Clear of Atomic Habits notoriety: 

“Nearly everything in life has a useful zone, a desired dose. Ten minutes in the sun can energize you. Ten hours in the sun can burn you. This concept applies to many things: work, relationships, hobbies, exercise, food. What is your desired dose? What do you need right now? A little bit more or a little bit less? 

Quote of the Month

“Libertarianism is the ‘diet and exercise’ of politics. No one wants to hear it. Implementing it will be painful sometimes. But it’s the only way to make our society healthy. There simply is no other option.” 

While the original quote is from @checkmatestate on Twitter, the addendum from Reason’s Nick Gillespie is worth considering. 

Kelvey’s Thought for the Month

I watch a lot of shark attack documentaries. It’s actually an absurd amount. As a result, I end up thinking about shark attacks potentially more than the average person, especially when I know I am visiting the ocean. (Imagine my relief when I discovered that my last seaside vacation spot had not had a documented shark attack over the last six decades.) 

I consume a lot of shark attack documentaries, so I think about shark attacks more. If you consume a lot of angry political Twitter or fearful news, what is going to slowly take over your thinking? We become what we consume, so consume well. 

Enjoy your April! I’ll see you next month.

February 2022: At Your Best + Lent Around The Corner

February 2022: At Your Best + Lent Around The Corner

Is anyone else extremely happy about the warmer weather? Dreary winter days, be gone! As we close out the month, here’s your February update talking about books, burnout, and more. 

Best Book I Read This Month 

February was a month where I started a lot of books…that I have yet to finish. Hah. Does anyone else relate? But there’s a book I only have a few more pages left of that has been extremely life-giving. 

At Your Best by Carey Nieuwhof speaks to me on so many levels. I hit a point of burnout back in December. While I have removed the chief source of that burnout, I’m still working to shape a schedule and routine that will help prevent me from burning out in the future. This book teaches you how to shape a schedule that leverages your energy cycles to actually work on your priorities. Highly recommend it – you can read more about the book here

Best Article I Read This Month

Amir Locke’s murder was horrifying. And, all gun owners (such as myself) should be condemning the fact that police murdered a man because they caught a glimpse of his lawfully owned weapon. While this National Review article was much more sympathetic to law enforcement than I am, it makes great points about the fact that gun ownership is multiracial in this country. 

Tip + Trick of the Month

Again referring to At Your Best, you should be doing your most important work when you’re at your best. I think we can all read that and have a ‘duh’ moment. But this can be easily boiled down to two things: working according to your energy levels and blocking distractions. For the first, pay attention to when you’re the most awake, efficient, and ‘on’ (for me, it’s usually before 10 am). As for the second…well…good luck. 

Quote of the Month

This quote is attributed by many to John Wesley. On how to live your life…

“Set yourself on fire with passion, and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” 

Kelvey’s Thought for the Month

Lent is right around the corner. As we enter into this season on Wednesday, many of you who are believers that, like me, do not belong to Catholic or Lutheran traditions may be questioning whether this season is something you should observe. I believe you should.

Observation of the church calendar is one of the easiest ways to orient yourself toward Christ throughout the year. Lent marks a season of renewal, of removing the things that take our gaze from Jesus. So dig in. Identify what, if removed, would draw you nearer to Christ. Remove distractions and turn toward the cross over these 40 days. You will not regret it. 

Enjoy your March! I’ll see you next month.