After fleeing her second abusive marriage in 2007, Cara Brookins needed four walls that made her feel safe. But she didn’t have the money to buy the kind of sanctuary she felt her four children, then aged 2 to 17, deserved. Driving past a tornado-ravaged house on the way to a cabin she had rented outside Little Rock, Arkansas, Brookins had a flash of inspiration. “You don’t often get the opportunity to see the interior workings of a house, but looking at these two-by-fours and these nails, it just looked so simple,” she told CBS News. “I thought, ‘I could put this wall back up if I really tried. Maybe I should just start from scratch.’”
Brookins had just enough cash to purchase an acre of land, plus all the building supplies they would need. Despite zero background in construction, and fueled by what Brookins admits was a resounding amount of naïveté, she and her kids decided to go all in.
“Once I had bought all these supplies and they were all piled up, there was no way out,” Brookins said. “There wasn’t enough money to pay anyone to put them together. There was no plan B.”
For guidance, the family turned to an unorthodox source: YouTube, which was nowhere the caldron of do-it-yourself instruction it is today.
“There weren’t really comprehensive videos or channels devoted to this sort of thing,” Brookins said. “But there’s a lot of ways to frame a window or to put a foundation together. So, we would watch three or four videos for each stage of construction and then think, ‘Which one of these is going to work the best for us?’”
Armed with little more than vim and gumption, the Brookinses forged their 3,500 square-foot dream home from the foundation up. The nine-month project was a team effort from the get-go: Hope, the eldest, marked the components. Fifteen-year-old Drew drew blueprints and operated the nail gun. Jada, 11 at the time, created the mortar by hand-mixing 80-pound bags of concrete with bucketsful of water from a neighbor’s pond. And little Roman, just two, chased squirrels and romped in the mud. They hauled two-by-fours, ran their own gas lines, and installed fiberglass insulation.
“It hurt; it was not something that was a great match to us physically, but my kids got up every day and they came out here,” Brookins said. I was working all day and they were in school, and we would work into the night sometimes by headlights. It was incredibly intense. There was nobody going to the movies. There were no dates, no hanging out. It was all hands on deck.”
As Brookins tells it in her memoir, Rise: How a House Built a Family, however, the physicalness of the experience proved to be emotionally cathartic.
For the Brookinses, they went big—and found home.
“Forget everything you’ve been told about taking baby steps,” she said. “Everybody says, ‘If you just take a small step every day, it will get better.’ In my experience, though, it doesn’t. You have to make a big leap. It has to be this huge, enormous act. For us, it was building a house. For somebody else, it could be something totally different. But you need to do something big that changes your perception of yourself.”
Via CBS News