After a rocky start, this turned out to be a good year for Leona O'Neill and her family. 2014 could be just as good, she says - all you have to do is believe
2014 is almost upon us and although I'm all for making New Year's resolutions, previous vows to stop eating chocolate, actually go to the gym - not just pay the membership - and embrace the spirit of Supernanny with regards my children have never honestly lasted beyond the first week in January.
This year I'm going to do just one thing - believe. And I'm going to diversify my believing into various categories. And if any of my various dimensions of believing might help you believe a little more, then that'll be doubly amazing.
Believe in the power of words I get letters, emails, phone calls about this very column every week. I write about my life, my children, my husband, my parents, my experiences, my heart being sore, and my heart soaring.
I have had people tell me that me writing honestly about my grief over my father's death helped them comprehend their own feelings. I've had mothers tell me writing about my son's dyslexia or our transfer test issues gave them strength to take a stand of their own.
I had people write from home, hospitals and hospices saying they look forward to my ramblings. Apparently I've made people cry, made them laugh and even had the great honour of having one of these columns read out in church.
Words, if used as a force for good, can connect strangers, heal hearts, and lift someone up from the depths of despair. We should all vow to use ours more wisely this year.
Believe that things will work out This time last year I was facing 2013 with no steady job. As self-employed folk, the recession hit my family extremely hard. In the dire economic climate we, along with thousands of people like us up and down the country, faced the very real prospect of not being able to pay the mortgage.
Looking into 2013 and the 'not quite peace' and the flag protests we had here, we seriously contemplated leaving Northern Ireland for good and settling somewhere else with significantly less issues.
The thought of leaving my mother and my friends behind was heartbreaking. Just as we were about to confirm our departure, fate intervened and I landed an amazing job at the Verbal Arts Centre, part of which involves me teaching journalism, media and communications to A-Level students. It was the best thing that happened in a long time and I guess I had to endure the bad days that went before to appreciate the good ones I have now.
And after that experience, I say to you - never give up, trust in fate, believe that things happen for a reason and will work themselves out.
Believe in good People in the north love nothing more than a good march. When something happens thousands take to the streets to protest, to try and turn the tide of change. A funny thing is happening in these modern times.
As a small minority of the population try to destroy the very fragile peace we have here with bombs and flag protests, a stronger tide of positive folk have risen up on social media sites - Take Back The City, Belfast Bites Back and Love Belfast to name but a few - to peddle good news, positive stories, to tell the beleaguered people of this corner of the world that there are more good people than bad, that good will prevail.
We are a strong, witty breed of people, us northerners. When a bomb went off in Belfast just before Christmas, there were pictures on these sites of evacuated people eating their Christmas dinner in the street, singing carols in paper Christmas hats at the side of the road. If the bombers wanted to strike terror into people's hearts and send images of scared party goers crying by the roadside across the world they were sadly mistaken. Good prevailed.
It's certainly a great lesson to teach our kids.
I remember watching old news footage of the Omagh bombing with my young son who couldn't understand why someone would plant a bomb and hurt people, that someone would be so bad, so evil.
I told him to look at the scene afterwards, look at the sheer number of good people who were helping, who were tending to the injured, who helped the families in the days and months afterwards, who prayed and sent love and support from all over the world to those affected. I told him to always look around him and know that there are more good people than bad. That good will always prevail. Believe in yourself And lastly, here's a little advice as we head into 2014. You are the only one of you in the entire world. There is no-one like you on the planet. You have unique gifts, you have unique skills, and you have the ability to change things no matter how bad they appear; how lost you feel; how impossible it seems.
All around you there are people hurting, struggling, and dealing with sore hearts for one reason or another. No matter who you are, you have the ability to change this; to make life a little better for someone with a smile; a kind gesture; and a little empathy. Reach out your hand. Shine your light. Make a difference.
That's what I'll be doing this year.
Happy New Year.