Baby steps to an unknown destination

This is a story about the freaking incredible things we can accomplish with baby steps.

With just doing one thing and then wondering what the next thing is that we could do.

No great plans, no Big Hairy Audacious Goals, just do one thing.

Then the next.

Then the next.

It all started with the air filter

Here’s what you need to know.

My lawnmower stopped suddenly, and I couldn’t start it again.

At home on the island (Aotea – Great Barrier) I keep things as simple and manual as possible.

I spent years and years as a single mum with 3 small kids, honing my ability to keep life manageable. I set up systems that I can rely on, and that I know how to fix if they break.


I don’t do power tools or things with pull-starts.

I once bought a weed-eater that broke down the first day and then took months of fighting with the company to get it fixed and eventually returned.

I don’t need that shit in my life. Back to the hand slasher.

Aotea – Great Barrier Island

But Dad sent his trusty old lawnmower over with me one time.

I had no plans to use it. But after a couple of years of watching other people using it and it seemed reliable, I made friends with it.

Until now. When it died.

Mother fucker.  

But I was on an island with all the time in the world, no children stressing me out or needing me, and no small-engine mechanic nearby.

So I called my dad (the knower of all things mechanical, electrical, and IT-related). We decided the engine might not be getting enough air, and I should clean the air filter.

Baby step #1

With a few instructions, I removed the cover and sure enough, the air filter was filthy. It was also made of paper, so I wouldn’t be cleaning it. But I could try to start it without one, so I did.

Same thing. No joy.

Baby step #2

I was feeling bold then, so I pulled out the spark plug and gave it a clean.

Jiggled things around. Put it all back together.

Then it started as long as I primed the fuel, but it would just die again immediately.

Baby step #3

So I figured, engines need fuel, air, and spark – check me out, knowing shit about engines – so that only left fuel as the problem. The fuel wasn’t getting through.

Blocked fuel line?

A few more calls to the wise and all-knowing Dad, and I had instructions to completely remove the fuel tank, empty it, clean it and the fuel line, and see what happened.

Hello awesome!

The next phone call to Dad was to announce my awesomeness because not only had I done all that but I’d ALSO managed to put it all back together (yes, there was one really big bolt left over for a while but I DID find its home eventually), AND it was humming!!!

I freaking did it!

It ran for a whole 45 minutes and then died again.

Mother fucker.

Baby step #4

Skip ahead to the end of the story: Dad ships me a new air filter, a spare spark plug just for good measure, and a gasket kit so I can pull apart the carburettor.

I now know how to completely service my lawnmower.

I know what the inside of the carburettor looks like, the mechanics of it all, how it all works together.

For the rest of my life, I now have the confidence to troubleshoot and repair my own lawnmower.

I keep telling Carver Boy I am officially the perfect woman 😏

FYI, I’m not.

But what I really am is proud of myself. For being resourceful. For being inquisitive.

For being brave enough to just give it a try. For mastering a completely new skill, at 46.

Reminder: Baby steps deserve applause.

Maybe there’s a takeaway in this for you

Maybe there’s something in your life that you’re avoiding completely but instead of trying to eat the whole elephant you could just nibble on its ear,  knowing you might never get to the tail, but knowing at least you could do one ear.

And when that ear’s done, maybe you could try a drumstick (do elephants have drumsticks?).

Is there something that seems impossible but you could take just the first step?

Or maybe there’s no inspiration for you here and I’m just bragging cos I think I’m cool now.

Either way, my lawns look GREAT 😀

Life is a series of baby steps.