Cara Brookins was emotionally exhausted when her second abusive marriage ended.
To help her recover she decided to construct her own home, which she learned by watching YouTube videos.
Once she had to sell the Bryant, Arkansas, she went on the hunt for a new home to put a roof over her four children.
Anything that she could afford at the time seemed too small but she compelled to find a way to reunite her family. “However,” she admits, “I had no notion what that should be.” Cara devised a plan to construct her own home from the ground up.
“It felt like, ‘If anyone were in our situation, they would do this,’” she commented.
“No one else saw it like this, and in retrospect, I realize it sounds insane.”
Cara paid $20,000 for a one-acre land and a construction loan of roughly $150,000.
She learned how to lay a foundation, build a wall, run a gas line, and install plumbing, among other building techniques by watching tutorials on YouTube.
Her children who ranged in ages from two to seventeen helped her throughout the nine-month construction of the 3,500-square-foot home.
Fifteen year old Drew, helped his mother in the creation of plans.
Jada, who was eleven used buckets to transport water from a neighbor’s pond, which she mixed with 80-pound bags of concrete to form the foundation mortar.
Brookins, who worked while the kids were in school, recalls, “It seemed impossible the whole way through.”
Brookins took her family to the five-mile-away construction site after school and worked on the new home late into the night.
At the time, YouTube videos were blurry and offered multiple ways to complete a task.
Brookins did hire a part-time firefighter with building experience for $25 an hour. “In terms of knowledge, he was a step ahead of us,” she recalls.
On 31 March 2009 Cara moved her children into the five-bedroom house and called it the Inkwell Manor in honor of her ambition to be a writer.
She subsequently published many novels, as well as a memoir, Rise: How a House Built a Family, which will be released on January 24.
Brookins built the house. “We were mortified that building our own shelter was our best alternative,” Brookins says.
“It wasn’t anything we were really proud of.” It turned out to be the most beneficial thing I could have done for myself.
“If I, a 110-pound computer programmer, can build an entire house,” she asserts, “you can do anything you set your mind to.”
“Decide on a single aim and stick to it. Find that large thing you want to do, take tiny steps toward it, and bring along others who need to heal with you on the journey. There’s a lot of power in that.”