When I was young, I bit my nails. My mother tried everything to get me to stop. She even bought a terrible-tasting liquid that she put on my nails each morning. Even that didn't stop me from chomping on my fingers.

As I aged, my bad habit continued. I must have been the only English teacher in Pennsylvania who chewed on my nails while I corrected essays. Even after I retired, I'm sure I was one of a very few 60-year olds who still had nails that looked like a lawnmower had cut them.

But, wonder of wonders - things have changed. I now have strong, healthy nails that don't embarrass me when I play card games.

What caused this miracle? Well, perhaps my body no longer needed that form of nutrition. Or, maybe I cured my bad habit by forgetting it? After all, my memory isn't what it used to be, so I might have just wiped nail biting out of my mind.

Whatever the cause, I am pleased to have divested myself of a bad habit. How many of us can celebrate that very often?

Mark Twain once said, "Habit is not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time." I think he was correct. I would have loved to throw my nail-biting out of a window long ago, but it took almost 72 years to get rid of it. That's really taking the steps one at a time!

Goethe once opined, "How people keep correcting us when we are young! There's always some bad habit or other they tell us we ought to get over. Yet most bad habits are tools to help us through life."

I would challenge Goethe to explain to me how my nail-biting helped me through life. If anything, it frustrated me dearly and caused me to hide my hands now and then. I recall being annoyed at a fellow clarinet player who said, "You keep your nails short, don't you?" I wanted to hit her with my clarinet, but I smiled and said, "Yes. I also play the piano and long nails get in the way."

There were times in my life when I debated about getting fake nails. But, a friend of mine did that and spent so much time and money on keeping them nice that I decided against it. A member of my family (not blood related) has her nails done weekly and has little jewels attached - or something to designate a holiday. When I saw her Christmas nails, I asked, "How did you get black and blue nails?" She laughed and put her hand closer to my eyes so that I could see the little wreaths. Ooopsy!

Now that one of my bad habits has been conquered, I have set my sights on others. I want to stop eating foods that are not good for my health. It's a shame that I am an Italian and love pasta, fresh breads, and creamy sauces. I should concentrate on eating fresh vegetables, fruits, and fish. I have learned a lot about nutrition from our daughter Stephanie, who is a natural food chef and reflexologist.

When Steph comes to visit, she makes things like quinoa salad and kale chips. She has a knack for making even strange food taste delicious. So, for my next bad habit fix, I am going to try and prepare healthy meals four days a week. If I tried for seven days, my husband would rebel.

Once I conquer my bad kitchen habits, I think I'll start on my exercise deficit. I have a bad habit of sitting and reading a lot. I love books and puzzles. Perhaps I can buy some earphones and invest in technology that will allow me to walk and listen to a book.

There's one bad habit that I don't know how to fix. Throughout my life, I have been striving to be RIGHT. Sometimes I come across as a know-it-all. I need to come to terms with allowing myself to be wrong now and then. Life is too short to achieve perfection- except with fingernails.

IF YOU WANT TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS - JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.