I’ve been thinking of ways to drive my husband crazy. Not the I’ve decided it’s time we had a threesome, so I’m bringing home a cheerleader from school-crazy, but the I need some new creative ways to bother my husband-crazy.

Equilibrium is important in a marriage. If a husband drives a wife more nuts than she does him, or vice-versa, imbalance of the marriage chakras occurs. Imbalance leads to tension, tension to arguments, and before you know it the police are at your door, summoned by angry neighbors.

Lately my husband has been a tiny bit annoying. Oh, he was mostly great during my birthday last week, lavishing me with a fabulous pair of new boots. I picked out the boots, of course; I don’t trust men with the really important decisions in my life. When a huge box arrived from Zappos (if you don’t know about Zappos and their great selection and wonderful return policy, you must go to right now), I thanked Marty profusely.

“What for?” he asked.

“This very thoughtful gift.”

“What gift?”

“These one hundred and forty nine dollar boots.”

“One hundred and forty nine dollar boots? That’s outrageous. I’ve never heard of such a thing,” he spewed.

“I know. What a great price! They were originally over two hundred bucks.”

Marty settled down eventually, and we went out for a nice steak dinner.  But during dinner, Marty craftily shifted the conversation to his upcoming birthday at the end of February and how he was thinking of having a Scrabble tournament in his name and maybe sharing the glory with fellow Scrabbler Sam Smith, whose birthday falls around the same time.

“I could call it the S and M tournament,” he said. “For Sam and Marty.”

“That’s real classy. And where would you hold this S and M Scrabble tournament?”

“At our house. I thought maybe you could make some chili and get some cold cuts and stuff.  I would limit the number of entrants to no more than thirty-six.”

He kept talking about the logistics of the tournament—prize money, advertising, etc. when I had a brilliant idea: I would start to pepper my conversation with unacceptable Scrabble words—words that should be allowed, and that very soon (when the Scrabble dictionary committee comes up with its new list in 2014) will be allowed, but that now are verboten. (By the way, verboten is an acceptable Scrabble word.) Marty is very sensitive to intruder words; he’s afraid they will make their way into his brain like worms from some science fiction movie and nestle there, perhaps mating with the acceptable words.

I was about to say something like “A lot of women like to get bling for their birthdays, but I don’t need bling. I’m not a bling kind of woman” when Marty paused and looked me tenderly and said, “Let’s talk about you. It’s your birthday.”

“Good timing,” I mumbled, but Marty didn’t know what I was talking about.

Another annoying incident occurred on Saturday at Scrabble Club. We have a tradition of celebrating monthly birthdays; we have cake and a prize for the highest scoring word played that day that includes the initials of the birthday person. For example, someone might submit DeMented for Daiva Markelis. Sometimes we have prizes for the word that best describes the personality of the birthday girl or guy; the birthday person is the judge. I was not happy with last year’s selection; people entered words such as slut, grump, grumpy, and, inexplicably— dogears.  Luckily, my friend Mary Maddox submitted ritzy, which won hands down.

It is Marty’s job as Mr. Director to read the words out loud slowly.

He came to the word cagey and looked at me for a long time and then uttered, “Daiva is a cagey Lithuanian.”

Cagey is not going to win,” I announced.

“How about enabler? Daiva is an enabler to her students.”


I was getting exasperated with his examples and thought I’d start making up words and repeating them over and over. Words like wordworm.

Wordworm is an acceptable word, isn’t it?” I was about to ask. “It’s kind of like wormwood, right? Wordworm, wormwood—what’s the difference?”

But then Marty looked at me and uttered the word young.

“My Daiva is always young,” he said and smiled and put his arm around me.

All thoughts of wordworm left my being.






Walking down a snowy street in Linden, Michigan on a Sunday morning helped ease the migraine that had begun to stomp its way into my head in the early hours of the morning. The migraine had taken up full residence at about eight AM and kicked out the nice tenants—the dopamines and the serotonins—as I was about to begin my first game of Scrabble.

Soda can trigger migraines for me, and the day before I had imbibed several cans of Diet Coke and a cup of Orange Crush. Stress doesn’t help. Two days of Scrabble I can take. I wish I had put my foot down and told my husband I needed to rest on the third day. But he insisted I play Scrabble. Okay, maybe he didn’t insist, but he also did not say something soothing such as “Daiva, here’s some money for a massage and some doughnuts. You just relax.”

Games one and two were horrible. I kept seeing those little flashing pyramids and zigzag lines that signify a migraine aura (or an acid trip.) I thought my opponents were placing their V’s upside down and their Z’s sideways.

When I played Cheryl Melvin in game three (or maybe game two or four), she told me she knew all about migraines.

“When I gave up coffee and chocolate, my migraines stopped,” she said in a caring voice.  “You might want to try that.”

I was ready to say something like “This is the worst piece of advice I have heard in my entire life,” but Cheryl looked so sweet and sympathetic. I nodded politely. And then she proceeded to kick my Scrabble ass.

I even threw up twice, once in the middle of a game. I hope my opponent didn’t think I was so disgusted by my poor playing that I had to excuse myself to puke.

That entire day had a Kafkaesque feel to it.

Signals from some alternate universe made themselves known to my achy, breaky  head. (Note: breaky is not a valid Scrabble word.)

For example, my walk down the snowy Linden street came to a stop when I was hypnotized by a sign in a storefront window: “Due to certain circumstances we have chose to close.” Signed: “Me and my girls.”  I looked inside to see a clean and well-appointed diner with a kind of 1950s feel. I stood there and pondered what the certain circumstances might be. Failed health department inspection? Lack of customers? Alien abduction?

The tournament was held at the Loose Senior Citizen Center. I humored myself by thinking of loose senior citizens—grannies and grandpas making out with people other than their spouses. Several people had told me the name of the center was pronounced Loh-see. Yeah, yeah, sure. I thought of the ongoing argument I had with a friend as to how to pronounce the name of the singer Bruce Cockburn. My friend insists it’s Co-burn; I say it the way I see it.

Speaking of cockburn (not a valid Scrabble word—I don’t think), my husband missed a bingo that day that cost him at least fifty dollars.

The word was PENISES.

“It’s because I don’t look for PENISES,” Marty insisted.

“I bet you wouldn’t miss VAGINAS,” I answered.

Going back a day: Saturday was fun. I played fairly well. Marty played well, coming in second. Paul Epstein came in first, as he did on Sunday. Marty didn’t feel too bad about this, as his record against Paul in tournament play is something like 952 wins out of 957 games. Okay, maybe it was more like 13 out of 15, but you get the picture—Marty is Paul’s Scrabble Daddy.

The people who ran the tournament—Jeff Clark, Miki Sutherland, and Dan Stock— were friendly and organized. The players were all very nice (though the guy who counted out the spaces on the board with his finger whenever he had a bingo was a little annoying.)

The highlight of the day, however, was eating at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Taboon, which I think means “forbidden to monkeys” in Arabic. The food was excellent. For starters, the waitress brought out these little white puffy doughy things you could dip in a thick white garlic butter. The company was entertaining. There were about twelve of us, including a few locals. People from the Detroit area are a lot like Chicagoans—down-to-earth and funny—except with less discriminating taste when it comes to sports teams.

We arrived in Linden on Friday a little after noon to play the Early Bird.

Marty was a little annoyed because he had the misfortune to get stuck at a table near the receptionist (it was a business day at the Loose Senior Citizen Center). She spoke in an “I’m talking to old people” voice—slow and loud—to seniors who called to inquire about bingo.

Marty played well despite the noise, and came in second.

Melissa Routzahn, of Crystal Lake, Illinois, won the Early Bird tournament.

However, she also won the Bad Mother of the Week Award, which put a little damper on her Scrabble win. It seems that her lovely young daughter had called that morning to ask whether mom could pick her up from a sleepover. Melissa had conveniently forgotten to tell her children she was on her way to Michigan to play in a series of Scrabble tournaments.  (Fortunately, she had informed her husband about the trip.)

Scrabble will do this to you.