Many of us have tried to learn how to do something by watching YouTube videos. The half-hearted, embarrassing results are likely tucked away in a drawer or hidden in a far corner of the garage.

Cara Brookins' story is incredibly different.

With limited funds and coming from a domestic violence situation, the Little Rock woman needed a house for herself and her four kids.

"Long story short, we needed a house, so we built one," Brookins writes on her website.

But they didn't do it in the traditional manner. Brookins turned to the internet, watching tutorials for every step of the home-building process.

“We could afford all the supplies so we just put it together ourselves," Brookins told KTHV. “With just a little bit at a time, we figured out how to lay a foundation block. There was a lot of asking people at Home Depot for help too.”

Brookins and her kids — who were 17, 15, 11 and 2 at the time — built a 3,500-square-foot house with five bedrooms, a three-car garage and a two-story treehouse.

It wasn't easy ...

"While our toes nearly froze off as we mixed concrete in a wheelbarrow, our back muscles ached from hauling two-by-fours, and we sweated and itched our way through fiberglass insulation — we also rebuilt our broken family," she writes.

They hand-mixed mortar for the foundation, ran gas lines and framed walls, proving to themselves, Brookins says, that a determined family can accomplish anything.

... but it did launch a new chapter

Brookins, who has written seven fiction novels for young adults and adults, decided to capture the family's homebuilding experience in a memoir. "Rise: How a House Built a Family" hits bookstores on Jan. 24. It also inspired "Raise My Roof," a podcast where Brookins interviews experts, activists and celebrities about things in their lives they’ve overcome. In addition. Brookins has become a motivational speaker.

She shares her advice for people struggling to tackle domestic abuse or other seemingly insurmountable problems.

“Do something big. Take a big leap and set an impossible goal. With enough determination you can do it.”


Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.