How does a girl go from forest dweller to house builder, author, and professional speaker?

It was my mom & dad's fault. Because I was pretty much born saying — What can I make? And they could have replied — Small things, little Cara. Make very small things. But alas, they didn't. Instead, they said — You can make anything you set your (stubborn-as -a-mule) mind to. So I made caterpillar sleeping bags, snow forts, and cardboard box kingdoms. I wrote entire worlds into books. And when my kids and I were in a tough spot and needed a place to live, you already know what I said — What can I make?
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One block at a time
(because that's all i could lift)
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The foundation was tough. But nothing builds family ties like laughing through delirious exhaustion.

"My kingdom for a concrete mixer." ~Anonymous Brookins
Yes, I know it looks like we have one here, but it was borrowed and literally threw a chipped gear at my feet after 2hrs. So for the entire foundation we had to hike down the hill to the neighbors pond (in Dec & Jan) for pails of water and then mix the mortar by hand in a wheelbarrow. And I know with this extreme level of DIY you're wondering if we formed and baked the bricks, too. No. No we did not and I did not plan for so much muddy hands-on work. (Surprise!) We did, however, fill the 7ft tall foundation with 26 dump truck loads of powdered granite. BY HAND. Also, this was not as much fun as it sounds. 

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Getting a loan to buy building supplies is a challenge if you're not a contractor, and even harder when you tell the loan officer — I can totally do this by watching youTube tutorials. I had only nine months to build or I would default on said loan. Since I was programming full time & the kids were in school, this meant 9 months with little sleep. Apparently I still found time to put on earrings (Every. Single. Day.) before hitting the job site. A dangly pair I made myself. Aside from fancy jewelry, the kids and I kept our spirits up by singing along to crazy music mixes Drew made for us. And we reminded each other how amazing it was going to be to live in this amazing (mostly level) house we were building with our own hands.

We were building a family, too.
Slogging ankle deep in concrete is one of my dad's favorite pastimes, so he drove down from Wisconsin to help pour the shop floor.
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Every construction site should recruit a 2yr old. Saw dust pies, frog collections, and puddle stomping keep things in happy perspective.
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It's a powerful thing, to build something so much bigger than yourself.
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My mom was the hardest working (& dearest) woman I've ever known. Despite extreme heat, she showed up to punch nails, paint, and help build my concrete countertops. And Since we picked out paint colors & curtains before we knew how to lay a foundation block, we were THRILLED to finally reach the stain, paint, and curtain stage! Some of us (Ahem - Hope) seriously dove into the work.
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Inkwell Manor

Every  brick, nail, pipe, and piece of wood passed through our hands. 

We built a future
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Inkwell Manor will always be a marvel to us.
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Dinners just like yours. Laughter + squabbling.
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Kitchen: Where we gather to trip over our cat.
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Our mindset shifted from scarcity to abundance.
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Mosaic I made with things that warm my heart.
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Some of the strong ancestors who shaped us.
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Every corner of Inkwell displays things we love.
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My Library: favorite place in the entire world.
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Sharing our story with the world
I never planned to write our story, but it absolutely insisted on being written. We were ashamed of how low we'd fallen when we built the house, so we didn't tell people what we were up to. But after we finished, people kept telling us our idea to take on a massive project to rebuild our lives had changed everything for them. They were inspired to do bigger things too. Sometimes it was a house, or a business, or a maybe a marathon run, but they were finding their BIG thing and doing it. So I worked for six years to write Rise, and then it surprised me by selling in a big New York publishing auction. Next the crazy story decided to go viral, invite news reporters to the house, and pull in phone calls from TV and film producers. And it's not over. Our family (and Rise) are still hard at work building bigger and bigger things.
Release day: Holding our story inside the house we built.
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Hundreds of people share their stories with me. And wherever they are in their journey, my question is always the same. What big thing are you going to build next?

"Where did they find THAT photo of me?!" ~Anonymous Brookins
1000's of stories with millions of shares a billion views. (and counting)
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When I had to stand in front of my English class and give a speech, I dissolved into tears. And when I built my house I designed a quiet library, not a stage. So when people started inviting me all over the country (& world) to share my story in person, it was an enormous leap.
But I'm me, so I accepted that challenge. Like so many times before, I found the very thing I was afraid of ended up being one of my biggest passions. I LOVE motivating a room full of people to look beyond all the tough stuff in the past and take an enormous leap toward their future. That means moving out of your comfort zone and taking some risks - even looking a little crazy to some people. But you know what? It's totally worth it. You'll change the way you see yourself and what you're capable of. You'll discover the power of achieving the impossible. And you'll figure out what the really important stuff of life is. My kids and I came out the other side of trauma thinking the most important thing we needed was a place to live. But you wanna know the truth? We didn't need a house as badly as we needed to build a house together.

 
It's time to build your big thing.

Hundreds of people share their stories with me. And wherever they are in their journey, my question is always the same. What big thing are you going to build next?

 

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