Tuesday, February 22, 2011

ten pounds

At 12:30 on February 13th, I felt fine as I started clerking business meeting at my Quaker Meeting. I started feeling a pain in my gut and resolved to get some probiotics to get my insides in order. By 2pm, I was in so much pain that I couldn't focus on people's words. Shortly after midnight, I was being wheeled into the operating room to get my appendix out.

An unusual valentine's day, present, to be sure, and an experience that has given me a lot to think about.

Today, though, I'm thinking about one of the discharge instructions. I am not supposed to lift anything weighing more than 10 pounds.

A simple instruction, and one that I'm relatively well-equipped to deal with. I understand numbers and materials fairly well. I know that a full soup pot weighs a good deal more than 10 pounds and that a bowl of soup weighs a good deal less. I know that I shouldn't be hefting bags of groceries around or stacking wood or carrying loads of damp laundry.

I'm okay with the tea kettle. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, and the capacity of the tea kettle is probably about half that. It's not a heavy kettle, so I feel safe lifting it.

I wanted to steam some cauliflower for my lunch, so I got out a 5-quart Calphalon pan with the clever steamer insert that sets atop it and its lid. Ordinarily, I fill the pan with water at the sink, put it on the stove, put the cauliflower in the insert, set it on the pan, put the lid on, steam the cauliflower and then take the whole thing off the stove.

Does this contraption weigh more or less than 10 pounds?

I don't know the weight of the pan, but I guess that the assembled whole weighs between 5 and 8 pounds. I put a quart and a half of water in it, for 2.5 pounds. I'm not sure how much a head of cauliflower weighs either, maybe a pound or so. So I decide to use a measuring cup to put the water in, assemble the pan, and then disassemble it in steps. Someone else will have to dump the steamer water out when I'm done. Oh well.

My youngest child comes by while the cauliflower is steaming and looks at the pan on the stove. His grandmother has left him with instructions to make sure I follow my medical limitations to the letter.

“Does that weigh more than 10 pounds?” he challenges me.

I lead him through the arithmetic, thinking “Ah, at least we can turn this into a useful homeschooling activity!”

My dining room chairs, I'm pretty sure, weigh more than 10 pounds. Should I use this as an excuse to teach my sons (and ask my husband) to be chivalrous and push my chair in for me when I sit down? Or is scooting my chair permissible? What about if I sit in another chair, hook my leg around the leg of the chair, and pull it towards me along the floor? Does that count as lifting or not?

We estimated the weight of my purse at about 8 pounds. My knitting bag is lighter, and I usually carry both bags everywhere, as well as a Joe Mo flask of tea. Each item weighs less than 10 pounds. Is it cheating to carry all of them with me?

And what about my outerwear?

Where did the 10-pound limitation come from anyway? Is it actually a useful metric for determining what sorts of activities are likely to retard my progress, or is it just an idea someone had?

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