Cara Brookins was emotionally destroyed when her second abusive marriage ended. She rehabilitated by building her own house, which she learned to do by watching YouTube videos.
When the mother of four was forced to sell the Bryant, Arkansas, house she lived with her soon-to-be-ex in 2007, she began looking for a new place.
However, all the computer programmer analyst could afford at the moment was too tiny. Brookins, too, felt obliged to act in order to reconcile her family. “However,” she confesses, “I had no idea what that should be.”
As a result, Brookins designed a strategy to build her own home from the ground up.
“No one else viewed it this way, and in retrospect, it sounds absurd.”
Brookins purchased $20,000 for a one-acre plot of property and obtained a $150,000 construction loan.
She also started studying YouTube tutorials to learn how to construct a foundation, build a wall, run a gas line, and install plumbing, among other things.
Her children, ages 2 to 17, helped her throughout the nine-month construction of the 3,500-square-foot home.
Drew, who was 15 at the time, helped Brookins create plans.
Jada, then 11, used buckets to transfer water from a neighbor’s pond, which she mixed with 80-pound sacks of concrete to build the foundation mortar because there was no running water on-site.
“It seemed impossible the whole way through,” Brookins, who worked while the kids were at school, recalls.
Brookins drove her family to the five-mile-away construction site after school and worked late into the night on the new house.
YouTube videos were grainy back then, and there were various methods to complete a task.
Brookins hired a part-time firefighter with building experience for $25 an hour to help with some of the more difficult tasks. “He was a step ahead of us in terms of knowledge,” she recalls.
On March 31, 2009, Brookins and her children moved into the five-bedroom house. In recognition of her desire to be a writer, she named it Inkwell Manor.
Brookins has since published a number of middle-grade and young-adult novels, as well as a memoir, Rise: How a House Built a Family, which will be available on January 24.
Brookins was able to break out from her depression by constructing the house. “We were horrified that constructing our own shelter was our only option,” Brookins adds.
“It wasn’t anything we were really proud of. It ended up being the best thing I could have done for myself.”
“If I can build a complete house as a 110-pound computer programmer,” she says, “you can achieve anything you set your mind to.”
“Set a single goal and stick to it. Find that big thing you want to do, take baby steps toward it, and bring people who need to heal along for the ride. That holds a lot of power.”