In 2008, Cara Brookins found herself and her family in pieces, fleeing a husband she says was "violent" and abusive. But instead of taking the much-recommended "one day at a time" baby steps approach, the mother of four boldly decided to build a house from the ground up with no prior experience, by simply watching YouTube tutorials.
Along with the help of her children, the house she built over that nine-month period is insanely impressive. I mean, the last YouTube tutorial I watched ended up with me trying to extinguish a fire in my oven.
The idea to build a house from scratch came to Brookins shortly after leaving her husband, when she was living in a small home in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“I had rented this cabin for a Thanksgiving getaway,” the mother of four told CBS News. “And driving there, we passed this house that had been ravaged by a tornado. It was this beautiful dream house and it was sort of wide open. You don’t often get the opportunity to see the interior workings of a house, but looking at these 2x4s and these nails, it just looked so simple. I thought, ‘I could put this wall back up if I really tried. Maybe I should just start from scratch.’”
After buying all the supplies for the home, Bookins ran into one small problem: She had no more cash to pay someone to put the house together. So, the 110-pound computer analyst with no experience in construction came up with the brave solution to do it herself, along with the help from tutorials videos on YouTube.
“Once I had bought all these supplies and they were all piled up, there was no way out,” she said. “There wasn’t enough money to pay anyone to put them together. There was no plan B."
She continued: "This was 2008, so YouTube was not then what it is now. There weren’t really comprehensive videos or channels devoted to this sort of thing. 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?’”
Brookins' four children were young at the time, 17, 15, 11 and 2 years of age, but the three older children were always helpful, she says, and they took turns watching over the toddler.
"Her daughter Hope did the marking. Her son Drew ran the nail gun. And someone was always assigned to watching her youngest, Roman, as the 2-year-old toddler gleefully stomped around in mud on the job site," notes CBS News.
“They were all in,” Brookins said. “My biggest fear was that my teenagers would wake up and say, ‘No, I’m not doing this.’ And it never happened. It was the first time they had felt any sort of power, any sort of control over their lives. And they knew how much they needed it.”
The nine-month building process was not easy, admits Brookins, though she said it helped unite and heal her family.
“It hurt,” she said. “It was not something that was a great match to us physically, but my kids got up every day and they came out here. 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.”
Brookins even wrote a book on the healing she and her family went through by amazingly building a house together, called “Rise, How A House Built A Family." The book was released on Tuesday.
The impressive mother of four relayed one last message to those struggling with any damaging hurdle in their lives: Do something big.
“Forget everything you’ve been told about taking baby steps. 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," she said. "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.”