The key in situations like this is to stay calm.

My dad served in three wars and raised seven kids. Now, if you had to guess, which of those two things that my dad did caused him the most stress?

That’s right — the part about raising seven kids. Look, if my dad had just had to raise me, I’m pretty sure he would have gone crazy. Imagine raising seven of me.

I’m not saying that my three brothers and three sisters are exactly like me — that, of course, would be weird, if not some sort of freak of nature. I’m just saying that raising seven kids would take a toll on anyone, even a veteran of three wars.

One of my favorite pictures of my dad was taken on a Christmas morning. In the picture, my dad is sitting in his recliner, surrounded by what looks like a New York City-sized landfill of Christmas wrapping boxes and the sort of debris you would expect to see early on Christmas morning in a house occupied by seven kids. But my dad seemed oblivious to the chaos that surrounded him. He was just calmly reading a book as if he were sitting under a tree on a sunny, warm spring day.

So I’m trying to remain calm even though, as I’m typing this, there are at least four people scurrying around me cleaning, installing pictures and hauling stuff in and out of the room in which I’m currently working.

My wife is decorating a place at the Lake of the Ozarks, and I volunteered to help her. Well, I volunteered in the sense that when my wife said, “You’re coming with me to the Lake of the Ozarks. I need your help,” I said, “I don’t want to,” and she said, “Tough.”

You know, in that sense.

Because my wife believes in a decorating system known as “buy way too much crap,” we had to haul the stuff to the lake in a semilarge U-Haul truck.

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I’m not a semilarge U-Haul truck sort of guy. I’m, at best, a medium-sized SUV kind of guy. So driving a semilarge U-Haul full of way too much stuff to the Lake of the Ozarks was sort of stressful for me.

Lee and Mike Pound in the front seat of a U-Haul truck. Lee is on the left and is holding up a drink cup and smiling. Mike is driving the U-Haul and not smiling
Lee and I on our way to the Lake of the Ozarks in our semilarge U-Haul. I am a bit on edge. Lee is not.

Well, it would have been if I were capable of stress, but I’m not. Well, at least not like my wife. My wife is always telling me how “stressed” she is. I’m not sure why my wife is stressed, but then again, I didn’t even know until I met my wife that “stress” could be used as a verb.

But just because I’m not capable of stress doesn’t mean sometimes I can’t at least get on edge. And driving a semilarge U-Haul full of too much stuff put me a bit on edge — until we got to the lake and I had a chance to get on the outside of a big bacon cheeseburger and a couple of beers at a Jimmy Buffett-themed establishment.

A photo of a bacon cheeseburger with farmer fries and two bottle of beers in the background
The bacon cheeseburger and beers at The License to Chill Bar and Grill at the Margaritaville Lake Resort at the Lake of the Ozarks that backed me off the edge.

Getting on the outside of a big bacon cheeseburger and a couple of beers at a Jimmy Buffett-themed establishment is the sort of thing that can back me off of the edge.

So now I’m trying to write this column on Friday morning while chaos swirls around me, and I’m remarkably calm. Sure, in a little while I’m going to have to load some of the “way too much crap” my wife brought to the lake along with a mountain of cardboard back into the semilarge U-Haul and drive it back to Carthage, but that’s in the future. Granted, it’s in the very near future, but I believe in living in the now, and now I choose to be calm.

Besides, if I find myself on the edge again, I can always turn to cheeseburgers, beer and Jimmy Buffett.