And what a rollercoaster decade it has been. It took me to the depths of despair, where I didn’t think I would be able to hold on for another minute, to incredible heights of success I would never have imagined possible!
If I compared those years to a 3-course meal, this is what it would resemble:
A beautiful sunny peaceful afternoon, turns into the stuff of nightmares.
(Imagine looking forward to a glass of wine and being forced to drink Swedish Bitters instead..)
4pm, 6th January 2006 – Just as I am getting into the car, ready to go home to wash off the renovation dust and sweat from a hard day’s work at the Purple House, a potato truck comes along and ploughs into my back.
The impact snaps my body in half and leaves me with life threatening injuries. Just like that, my old life has finished. I am done.
By the time the ambulance arrives I am still alive.
I have just returned from a near death experience where I was being pulled in by the light. Before I completely passed over into the next realm I decided that I couldn’t leave my six kids, or Peter, or the mess we had started by pulling apart the Purple House, or the dream Peter and I had for our lives. Before I could fully make up my mind, I am instantly back in my injured body.
(going along with the meal analogy, this is the moment where I would be looking around for the waiter to complain that this wasn’t exactly what I had ordered from the menu! I want the manager to take it all back, so I can go home. But that is where the comparison stops: you can’t return life’s lessons back to the sender, they just end up getting harder if you do!)
Lying on the hot tarmac in a banged up body, I vowed to myself that IF IT WAS TO BE, IT WAS UP TO ME!
I knew I could be a stubborn old bitch if I wanted to. I had overcome many obstacles in before, and I would do it again.
Always the practical self, I soon realised that even though my body was a mess, my arms and hands were still functioning, and my head seemed uninjured (little did I know I had received a closed head injury, but thankfully I had no lasting damage there.)
By the time I was wheeled into the ambulance, strapped onto the spinal board, I had made up my mind that I would fill the rest of my life up with stories.
Tales I would remember during the months and years of solitary moments recuperating from my injuries, stories I would acquire from fellow patients, stories I would overhear from the nurses, stories my children would tell me, and anecdotes Peter would relay to me from Forth, while I was recovering in Melbourne. I would cherish them and write down as many as I could. This would be my new lifeline in case I was left marooned to a hospital bed or wheelchair for the remainder of my life. Even if I would never be able to live an ‘active life’ again, I would still be fulfilled and happy. I wasn’t going to end up all isolated and lonely.
I had instantly given my life new meaning.
Fast-forward to January 2008.
Peter and I were now the proud owners of the Purple House Natural Therapies centre in Forth.
By sheer determination and a fair bit of help from the Universe, we had achieved the first chapter of our dream: to bring true health to everyone who believed their bodies can heal. To teach clients the ‘secrets’ to get off the roller coaster of poor health and show them nutritional and other health protocols that speed recovery, just like I had done. Not only had I recovered from the near fatal accident, I was bossing everyone around at home again, plus doing the groceries, the cooking and cleaning as well as working as a therapist in our 6-roomed beautifully renovated health centre. Mind you, I had a colostomy bag and a catheter to tend to, and I was always taking antibiotics for bladder infections, and I sometimes used a walking stick, but I had superseded everyone’s expectations!
I had finished my glass of Swedish Bitters and was living proof that we can do anything we put our minds to.
Except that by February 2008 my mind was suddenly broken. Literally. I woke up from one day to the next and I couldn’t function as Grada anymore. I found myself in Rivendell, (a private psychiatric hospital in Burnie) where I spent the next 8 weeks putting the pieces of the puzzle together to make sense of my life.
This hadn’t been on the cards/on the a la carte menu?!
I was facing the start of a lengthy battle with mental illness, dominated by chronic anxiety interrupted by panic attacks that were so fierce, I would have gladly traded an arm or a leg for a moments peace.
I now see those years (2006 -2010) as a period of massive personal growth. The fact that I felt responsible for 4 teenagers and 2 young adults as well as a readily expanding business, made it even more urgent. I didn’t have the luxury to be sick, be it physically or mentally.
I never ever once dreamt of giving up.
Fast forward to January 2013. Back in the Burnie hospital this time, I have just returned from the dead again. Well almost. Emergency surgery saved my life. After 7 years of abdominal issues (because of the MVA), my bowels decided to give up the ghost over the New Year period.
(Have you ever eaten tripe/cow stomach? I was served a meal of tripe once by my mum in law. I adored her, and didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but she wasn’t a great cook at the best of times, and the tripe was so bad that it made me gag! I won’t tell you how that meal finished, but it was an exercise in mutual humiliation! Dying from a bowel blockage is not only extremely painful, it is very humiliating as well.)
Once again, I was saved by the medical world. This time, I made an even speedier recovery and in May 2013, we were celebrating the opening of Alchemy Cafe, which was the culmination of a dream we had held close to our hearts since we had bought the Purple House as a run-down post office building (be it much loved by the previous owner) in 2005.
Alchemy Café skipped all the baby stages and quickly became sought after for its raw cake creations, and its delicious, gluten free menu. The Purple House/Alchemy community kept on growing, with many clients traveling long distances to while a day away in Forth.
It all happened so quickly.
Our grown-up children have all returned to Forth and the surrounding area from various parts of the globe. It’s as if an internal alarm clock had gone off inside their subconscious, saying time to return to Forth and be part of the pack again. Our weatherboard home has seen it all before and is happy to accommodate a million adult bodies, babies and children.
Unbeknownst to us, our community of clients had also kept on growing steadily. Chipping away at the coalface, we had lost count, but when we switched over to a new software system this year we realised we have close to 12,000 people on our data base.
I was in awe! So many lives, so many stories. I didn’t keep the promise to myself to write every single one down. There simply wasn’t time. But everyone’s precious history is engraved on my heart. (That is the true nature of our hearts, they keep on stretching effortlessly).
Looking back over those powerfully painful events of my life, I can now easily see the gifts they brought me. It awakened greater levels of compassion and consciousness in me. Every day I wake up grateful for a new day.
My children were marked by it all, but the hardships also sparked creativity and resilience.
Caleb started a small fermenting business in Forth. Initially he was just making enough products for ‘show and tell’ at his fermenting classes. It morphed into ‘Love Your Guts Co’, a successful business with a warehouse in Spreyton and successfully operated by Zac and Joh, as well as Caleb, creating employment for half a dozen people (last time I checked, but they are growing so rapidly, its hard to keep up with it the latest stats.)
Mieke introduced artisan ice creams to Alchemy, while traveling the globe and giving us two precious granddaughters. She now takes care of marketing our business.
Lisanne’s raw cake classes were always a sell-out because of her passion and creativity. She had her final workshop just before Rosie was born.
At one-point Eve had to fly over from Adelaide, because we had lost our cook. Eve was pregnant with number 2 at the time, but she didn’t hesitate once about stepping up to help out. This shows how dedicated our kids were to our projects.
Lucie, Tom’s partner, was our friendly barista and nearly gave birth to Wilbur on the way home from work.
Tarley, Caleb’s partner, became a beacon of light at the Purple House.
Alana, Johanan’s wife, put in many long hours at the clinic and café.
Ben, Lisanne’s partner, makes a darn good barista and waiter when called upon.
Mieke, Eve, Caleb and Lisanne in turn, were the backbone of Alchemy’s kitchen, pumping out delicious, healthy and creative meals as if they had done it all their lives.
Perhaps they had, and I hadn’t noticed it?
Johanan bought the local veterinary clinic in Forth and he is too busy for me to ensnare him as a cook! (Pity really, because he is a great cook!)
And I haven’t mentioned Tom, because he deliberately kept his great cooking and cleaning skills low key. Smart boy! He is too busy working as a builder to join the fray at Alchemy.
Being at the centre of an ever-growing community of clients, friends and family has been utterly rewarding, and even though life threw us a few curve balls, I would do it all over again.
To cut a long story short, if it hadn’t been for all my kids (plus willing in-laws) Alchemy would not have been the success story it is today.
I also want to mention how grateful I am to Sarah-Anne. Sarah has been with us the whole time, and never stopped shining her light and sharing her wisdom and energy with all of us, even though she lost her Mike in 2009 and went through a period of heart break.
Sarah Anne Barker is a much sought-after teacher and therapist and you can follow her on facebook and Instagram, especially if you are interested in doing workshops in Cranio Sacral Therapy, Reiki, Aura Soma Colour Care, or learning how to live a peaceful connected life.
Eve offers to buy Alchemy Café so she can take it to the next level. She is brimming over with great ideas. It’s just what it needs.
I see in her the same fiery passion that I have for Alchemy. Or used to have. I go home to mull things over and realize that my focus has changed.
I am now on the ‘return journey’, where I cherish time with my grandchildren and enjoy more peaceful moments of quiet contemplation, study and writing.
It’s the perfect time to let Eve Alchemise the Café and for us to reconsolidate our business and take it home, where I already run my workshops.
I am excited to share this new chapter in the life of the Purple House with you!
We will be closed for the move home next week, from the 16th to the 23rd of April and the Purple House will re-open as the Purple House Wellness Centre at 47 Wilmot Rd, Forth on the 24th April.
You will be able to see the familiar faces of Sarah Anne, Tarley, Peter and me, as well as some fresh faces.
At this stage, opening hours will be from Tuesdays to Fridays 9am-5pm.
There will be safe parking for everyone, as well as wheelchair access.
You feel transformed the instant you set foot on our property, which consists of 9 acres of gardens and forest, adjoining the Forth River. It’s truly a magical sanctuary, and we are happy to share it with our community.
Our treatment rooms are spacious, inducing a sense of calm and timelessness. You will feel fully supported on your journey of transformation, as always.
There will be a large reception area, where you can purchase your favourite health products and talk to our receptionist. (Call 64283007 to make an appointment.)
I dare you to expect even more miracles!
Alchemy will be closed from the 16th April and re-open on the 2nd May for better and brighter things.
Keep following the updates on Alchemy Cafe Facebook and Instagram, as well as the Purple House Natural Therapies.
Have you checked out the new Purple House app yet? You can download it from App / Play store and conveniently book your appointments and workshops through the app.
Time to crack open a bottle of champagne!
PS: Little do we realize that we (yes, you and I) order our items from the menu of Life. The Universe always gives us exactly what we ask for!
We are the ones who subscribe to the lessons.
I have put an order in for a future full of Ease, Grace, Love and Wisdom and I am looking forward to enjoying the next chapter in my life!
What is your order? Make sure you put in a good one, because the Universe always delivers.
Much love, as always, Grada