After writing about Wonder Woman, a fictional inspiration, I decided I wanted to write about a real person who truly inspires me. I talk about her and her journey a lot in my blog, and she holds a special place in not only my life, but my heart. The self-named Advocate of Adventure, Charmaine Houck, gets her own spotlight as one of my greatest current inspirations.
I met Charmaine at a transitional point in my life. It was October of 2009. I had already signed my life away to the U.S. Navy back in March. I had seemingly lost my best friend to this decision. I spent my time gaming online, dating, and drinking. After a horrible date, read hookup, I decided to not let it ruin my night. I texted my favorite cousin. I had decided to go see her and her husband.
I did not get to see her and her family often. I spent much of my time in Brookings, SD. She had moved to Florida, and moved back. It had been ages since I saw her. (Even now, it has been ages since I saw the two of them. They now live in the Twin Cities and we keep trying to make plans for them to come here. Get on it, Nellie!). This was the last time I expected to see them before I headed out.
It was a good time. We opened some beers. We played beer pong. My cousin’s husband then decided we should play Mario 3. He went downstairs and picked through boxes looking for all the proper equipment. It was then Nellie got a call from her dad. He had been out drinking and needed someone to come and pick him up. The husband and I basically just hung out and played video games until we heard the others arrive upstairs. We went out to join them.
This eclectic group of people stood out there with beers already in their hands. Nellie seated herself out the table, and I found myself over there shortly myself. I sat next to this older woman who was probably in her sixties or seventies. In retrospect, she reminded me an inked image of a witch from the Brother’s Grimm. She had a long nose, and her eyes looked too large beneath her glasses. Her hair looked stringy and uncontrollable. Add that to a punk feel. Leather jacket, black shirt, and a pair of jeans a bit too tight. She kept saying, “I know six languages. Beunos Noches. Come Allez-Vous.” What other languages she knew, I could never be sure, but she apparently knew six of them.
There was a man who was balding at the crown of his head, but had long white hair coming from it like a a veil of dying gray hair. A woman, much younger than the rest, wore a gray shirt that was too big from her that completely covered up any sort of form. She wore glasses that in contrast to the older woman, made her eyes look a bit beady. Her hair was down around her face a bit like Moritica Adams. There was a man whose head resembled a horse to the point of it looking like someone had put human features on a horse skull.
Finally, there was Charmaine. Charmaine is a buxom beautiful woman who was well put together. She wore a pair of jeans that fit her perfectly. She wore a jacket that I think was a jean jacket with a scarf. She moved with purpose. She was interacting with everyone and just a bubbly perky personality. She held nothing back.
I do not remember how it started, but somehow someone challenged her ability to make knots. She then proceeded to tie up three of the men to prove they could not get out of them. I just took this in stride. I had seen weirder things in my life. I was living in a college town.
The two of us got to talking and throughout the conversation. At the time, I was not as comfortable with my sexuality for a lot of reasons. I never knew who was going to kick my ass for being gay, or what kind of trouble I could find myself in with the wrong person. I used a lot of gender neutral pronouns. Charmaine caught onto this. Her acknowledging this casually, and secretively, instantly made me know I had an ally int his odd situation.
I think we were talking about the Renaissance Fair, or something of the sort, but Charmaine brought up the fact she had a leather corset. My mind instantly brought the ropes, knots, and leather together. I blushed instantly. She looked over at me with a coyote smile filled with mischief. “Now you know my secret.”
Over the next month, we spent as much time as possible together. She drove up to Brookings to hang out with me. She’d spend days at my apartment, and then make her way back to work. We made this vivid plans about my life in the Navy. She promised to write. I promised to help her travel to me across the country. The biggest plan was for us to live together.
I spent my last night in SD with her before heading to Chicago and my new life. I got out of the Navy 30 days later on her 30th birthday. While in Separations, the two of us decided to move in together in Brookings. She moved 60 miles to live with an almost stranger. Eight years later and 1,500 miles between us, we chat on a daily basis in some form.
This is how we met, but her inspiration goes much deeper. She juggles work, parenthood, and social activities like a champion. She has written a book about her life. She works as the editor of my novel. She’s also one of the kindest people I know, and someone who pushes me every chance she gets. She keeps pushing herself to excellence, and is a superhero in a lot of respects.
I always tell her how jealous I am of her. She works as an editor of a magazine. She has her book published. She’s working on another book. She’s juggling her family life. She’s looking at expanding her editing career or maybe doing a billion other things in publishing. That little tinge of jealousy comes from me not yet being at her level, and is nowhere near as big as the pride I have for all her accomplishments. She’s a wonder woman in her own right, and continues to inspire me everyday. She’s not perfect, she has weaknesses, but she’s living her superhero life, and I will always be there with her.