Back in 2007, Cara Brookins and her children (Hope, Drew, Jada, and Roman) were going through a rough patch. Brookins had fled a marriage where she was the victim of domestic violence. She told TODAY, “We lost ability to laugh together, we had spent so long being beaten down.” But a beacon of hope was found in the form of a demolished pile of wood where a house once stood, devastated by a powerful tornado. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and Brookins had been driving with her children to a cabin in the Ozark Mountains. In the wreckage of the house, she saw an opportunity. She would rebuild this house, and rebuild her family in the process.
All weekend, Brookins and her children fantasized about the prospect of building their own home. Soon after, the ambitious mom was getting the loan to go through with it. The conditions of the loan required her to complete the project in nine months while also working a full-time job, and the loan covered only supplies, so costs needed to be kept to a minimum. The best way to do that, of course, is to do all of the work yourself. So with the help of YouTube tutorials, that’s just what Brookins and her family did.
In 2008, YouTube was still in its infancy. The site may be loaded with professionally made tutorials now, but it used to exist as a largely formless collection of mostly amateur videos. And as anyone who has ever printed out pages of MapQuest directions might recall, smart phones weren’t always sitting in our pockets for whenever we needed some shred of information. So instead of looking at a phone while following along on the job site, Brookins and her family had to watch the tutorials the night before. She said, “There was a lot of ‘Do you remember how to…?’ the next day.”
While the family started off unprepared, they moved forward together—building muscle, gaining confidence, and learning how to fully enjoy one another’s company again. They became so comfortable working together that they needed only to grunt and raise their hands to receive the tool they needed. At last, with the help of a local firefighter who pitched in at an affordable rate, a couple of licensed professionals who handled electrical and HVAC duties, and lots of YouTube videos, they built their 3,500-square-foot home, Inkwell Manor. It’s a beautiful, spacious, and energy-efficient home.
She mentions the platitudes other would use to keep her going. “I kept hearing advice, like ‘just get out of bed, just make pot of coffee.’ If my goal is only to get out of bed, I’d never accomplish anything.” And she offers the following advice of her own: “Set goals impossibly big — look at the big picture.”