Work, respect and purpose are the elixir for this romance

A heart shaped tool caddy brings a smile to Deb Baxter’s face as her husband Dan looks on after giving her the early Valentine’s gift. The pair has found a life-long bond through shared work, mutual respect and a practical recipe for time spent together.

Photo by Julie Raefield-Gobbo.
A heart shaped tool caddy brings a smile to Deb Baxter’s face as her husband Dan looks on after giving her the early Valentine’s gift. The pair has found a life-long bond through shared work, mutual respect and a practical recipe for time spent together.

Standing amid the sawdust-laden benches under a bower of woodworking tools, Deb and Dan Baxter of Hood River exude the calm confidence, directness and easy manner of longtime work mates — a perfect analogy for their marriage of 30 years.

“We both just stay busy,” said Dan on one of the secrets of their romance. “And, she puts up with me. If we get testy, we back off and come back at it later.”

“We’ve learned to work together but not on the same thing at the same time. We work independently but near each other,” said Deb. “We don’t get in each other’s space. We like to collaborate but also let the other person do things how they want to.”

“And I tell myself to shut up and listen — a lot,” said Dan.

“We both do,” said Deb. “We have learned to accept that the other person wants to do things differently.”

“We both have learned to say, ‘This is a person with skills and knowledge that are different than mine and I should step back and listen,’” said Dan.

The Baxters are not just speaking symbolically about marriage, they have plenty of literal application of their philosphy.

Dan, a retired teacher, runs his own Etsy-based woodworking shop — Baxter’s Bentwood — and Deb is a civil engineer who designs and supervises interior space configurations for ships and boats.

In addition to their respective employment, the pair has built a pair of finely crafted kayaks plus a bevy of coat racks, shelves, tables, cabinets, hall trees and exquisite musical instrument stands using their combined knowledge and skills.

The Baxters have also raised two children, MacKenzie and Ian, who are in the process of finishing their college degrees, and have started several small businesses together including a native plant nursery and an RV rehabilitation/rental company.

While the couple’s partnership has matured over time, their first date was also fairly symbolic of their life ahead, and their ability to work well together and stay focused under life’s challenges.

After meeting the night before, the pair set out for a day of sailing a small boat on a deep lake. That date ended up with Dan in the water for several hours helping to right another group’s capsized boat during an incoming storm.

Deb tacked their own boat nearby for the duration, and helped Dan back onboard, bringing the two of them safely back to the docks after the rescue against the incoming gales. Not a bad way to glimpse how life might be together in the years to come.

“Yeah, it was a great way to impress her,” said Dan.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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