A winding road from chaos to dream fulfilled

Jo Winkler has been recovering from a series of strokes with the help of family. She crochets daily at Winding Road, the store front her daughter opened for the two of them to stay active. Democrat photo/Michelle Brooks

Jo Winkler has been recovering from a series of strokes with the help of family. She crochets daily at Winding Road, the store front her daughter opened for the two of them to stay active. Democrat photo/Michelle Brooks Photo by Michelle Brooks.

— By MICHELLE BROOKS

Democrat staff

A winding road has taken a California mother and daughter from hectic lives, through crisis, to a new relationship dynamic and the opportunity to try a life’s ambition.

Jo Winkler, 60, raised two children on her own and earned two degrees, while climbing the corporate ladder at the Ameren Nuclear plant for more than 30 years.

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Julie Bolinger and her mother Jo Winkler prepare an old dresser for refinishing in the back room of their new store Winding Road in downtown California. Democrat photo/Michelle Brooks

She and her daughter Julie Bolinger often did things together — antique shopping, decorating and errands. And before and after Julie’s son Gage, 2, was born, Julie relied heavily on Mom’s help and advice.

Then, in February 2012 Winkler came out of an ascending aeortic aneurysm surgery having experienced a series of strokes.

What had been fast-paced daily lives for Winkler, who was the corrective actions supervisor at the Ameren plant, and Bolinger, who did full-time ultrasound work with Missouri Heart Center, quickly slowed to cross the roadbumps before them.

Winkler came home from the hospital with Bolinger. But after eight months, it was time for more independence.

They bought a home only 50 yards away from them, so Winkler could have her own space but they Bolinger was still nearby.

“This was a big lifestyle change for the family,” Bolinger said. “It strained our relationship.”

The mother-daughter dynamic had undergone a role-reversal.

To reclaim their friendship and to aid in Winkler’s recovery, Bolinger decided in June to open a store.

“I said it was something I’ve got to do for both of us,” Bolinger said.

With the occasional help of friends and family, the two prepared the downtown space to display Mid-Missouri-made crafts, decorations and furniture.

Winding Road opened the end of September with a few furniture pieces Bolinger had worked on and a crocheted hat Winkler had made.

The days the store is open, Winkler sits in her rocking chair crocheting new projects, including a mobile and baby hats.

They work together preparing new furniture pieces in their spare time.

“This is our happy spot,” Bolinger said. “We can get away from the normal and make a peaceful place out of a crazy life.”

The store’s name is a reflection of where they’ve been.

Above the register is a poem written by Bolinger: “The road through life is winding, the path is never straight; You must toil through the trouble to find the peace that awaits.”

“I wanted this business to be about what’s going on in our lives and how we’re going to change it,” she said.

Through the last year, they’ve learned that how they reacted to life’s blows was the most important, to either let it tear one down or keep going and make something worth living, she said.

Bolinger believes God took them out of the “craziness of life” and brought them to a simpler place.

“Had this not happened, I would never have opened this store,” she said.

Winkler took up her lifelong hobby of crocheting early in her recovery. She’s made several blankets and hats for family. And now she looks forward to the variety of crafts she will crochet in the future for the store.

The store also creates a space for local craftsmen and consumers to find one another, Bolinger noted. And she is glad to be part of reviving the commercial district.

“I’ve enjoyed spending time with her in not so much a motherly role but a friendship role,” she said.

Before the stroke, Winkler was always there to take care of things for Bolinger, she said.

“I miss that.”

“This is about bringing us back into life, so that we have a purpose.”

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