PATRICE: It has to do with listening to that still, small voice. I urge people to look at their interests, even if those interests don’t earn them money. They are clues to one’s gifts, because we do them passionately and without compensation. Perhaps those things can be turned into a job.

AMY: Do you have “downtime”?

PATRICE: Everyone needs downtime. What if “work” became a pleasure? I am sometimes overwhelmed with writing commitments, but I still regard writing as a pleasure even though it’s my job, because writing is my gift from God. Finding one’s “right livelihood” means work can be pleasurable.

AMY: You also say it takes guts to be the first in a group to do something. Do you consider yourself a pioneer of the simple life?

PATRICE: If I’m “pioneering” anything, it’s the idea that simplicity is within everyone’s grasp as long as they stop doing stupid things and examine the long-term repercussions of their choices and behavior. People forget that our lives are largely the accumulation of the choices that we’ve made. We all face circumstances beyond our control, but our choices stemming from those circumstances affect how our lives turn out. My mother was raised in a horrible home—a circumstance beyond her control—but she made the choice to not re-create that horrible home when she became an adult and created her own home.

AMY: Do you think America’s early pioneers embraced the practical ideas outlined in your book?

PATRICE: The early pioneers were not burdened with the material excess we have today, but they were just as burdened with the repercussions of their decisions. Those who made good choices had simpler lives. Those who made bad choices didn’t. Pioneers had adventurous spirits but also had the simplicity to embrace that pioneering spirit. It would be more complicated to become a pioneer with rotten choices anchoring them down. They probably wouldn’t have gone in search of new territories if their lives were a flippin’ mess. Presumably, they had a foundation of making the right choices in life before they left the security of their homes and set off into the unknown. (Doubtless there were some who were escaping the mess they had created, but I’m guessing they were in the minority.)

AMY: What can we learn from them?

PATRICE: Many of the problems in our current society stem from the fact that the government has lifted the burden of repercussions for poor choices. If you make a choice to have a baby out of wedlock—no problem, the government will support you. You won’t have to bear the shame, financial distress, or other negatives due to your poor choice of not waiting for marriage before having a baby. We have become a nation of professional victims, unable or unwilling to see the downside to our bad behavior.

The pioneers didn’t have that luxury. If they made a bad decision, they paid the price—and learned from it. They taught themselves and their children to examine the long-term repercussions of personal choices. Bad choices lead to bad things. Good choices lead to good things.  

AMY: Tell me what you learned from your parents.

PATRICE: My parents’ marital fidelity made me understand the importance of choosing the right spouse and how that choice can impact us for the rest of our life. I dated a lot of frogs, but when my prince came, I knew right away he was the one. My folks have been married for fifty-three years. My husband and I have been married for twenty-two years and, God willing, we’ll outlast my parents when it comes to keeping our vows. There are few things more simplifying than choosing the right spouse.

AMY: You found a simpler life in the country. Do you think city folks can find simplicity amidst the hustle and bustle?