A US mum has turned a challenging period in her life around in a totally inspiring way, enlisting the help of her kids to build a gorgeous dream home (and rebuilding her family in the process!)
Arkansas mum Cara Brookins had been having a really rough trot, recovering from three difficult marriages, one of which was abusive and violent.
The mum-of-four began to feel her life was veering off course permanently, and that her kids were in danger of becoming disconnected from her and from each other.
Cara knew she had to turn things around.
Time to act
“I started to feel this sense of urgency. I thought I’m going to lose them and… I’m never going to communicate with them because we don’t have the right type of relationship,” Cara explained.
The marriages had really taken their toll on both Cara and her children. Life had become something to endure, rather than enjoy.
“My kids and I were pretty shattered and afraid; we were afraid of everything and didn’t know how to talk to each other. We were all just running in survival mode every single day,” she told ABC News.
One weekend, Cara spotted a tornado-damaged house, foundations exposed and bare, on a trip out of town. Something about seeing the framework that lay beneath the structure hit her like a bolt out of the blue.
For the first time she saw a house as the sum of all its parts – timber, nails, elbow grease – rather than an unachievable dream.
Maybe it was just the kind of dream that would bring her family back together and make them feel more connected?
With this in mind, Cara decided to build a house then and there, from the ground up. She had zero experience and zero funds, but bucket loads of determination. Her four kids ranged in age from 2 to 17 at the time.
So began a series of challenges that would change this family’s life.
Let the hurdles begin
The first hurdle was coming up with the money.
It took single mum Cara quite some time to secure a construction loan. It was “difficult” Cara remembers.
When she finally got approved, she hit the ground running, buying a piece of land in her neighbourhood and a bunch of building materials. It was time to get the party started!
She had exhausted her funds and was now out of cash. Cara realised she would have to improvise if she wanted to see the project through. Of course, that’s just what she did.
Watch and learn
After chatting to her kids, they all agreed that the family would have to go full DIY, building their home themselves.
Everyone was up for the challenge.
Cara and kids began building in 2008 and worked an average of 20 hours a day, taking instruction from YouTube videos. They poured concrete, framed the walls and laid bricks, completing their home in just nine months.
“We built a 3500 square foot house with five bedrooms, a three car garage, a huge shop, and a two-story treehouse,” Cara says, proudly. Amazing.
Cara admits the project was a bit of a steep learning curve, but it really paid off and transformed their relationships FOR EVER.
“Slowly and painfully we learned how to take direction from one another, how to laugh, how to be funny. We learned how to communicate.”
Along the way they did enlist a little bit of help from a guy they met at Home Depot, an electrician and a heating/cooling expert, but (as you can see) the family did the bulk of the work themselves.
Fearless and fabulous
Cara says it’s pretty much the best thing the family has ever done.
“I can’t even describe the people that they are today. They are so fearless. They believe you can do anything.”
(Her kids are now aged between 11 and 26.)
This story has hit the headlines now because Cara’s written a book about her experience of building a home and rebuilding her family. Her memoir Rise: How A House Built A Family will be released next week and we can’t wait to read it.
Thanks for sharing your inspiring story of recovery and bravery with the world, Cara. It’s truly something to behold and a reminder to us all that we’re capable of amazing things.
Scroll down to see more of the finished house, dubbed Inkwell Manor. It’s absolutely gorgeous and a credit to these guys.
All images within this article are thanks to Cara Brookins.