Friday, November 2, 2012

Curva-Lish Survivor: Mercedes Ramirez-Johnson (United States)

Curva-Lish is proud to begin our series called Curva-Lish Survivor in which we will feature women who, by their sheer will to survive, will inspire women around the world to never give up and use their experience as a catalyst to commit themselves to live an authentic life that makes a ripple-effect of inspiration and impact to others.

We are proud to make Mercedes our first Curva-Lish Survivor feature because her life story is not only one of an unimaginable event at such a young age but is also one in which a key event changed the trajectory of what the rest of her life would become focused on.  

Curva-Lish:  We selected you as our "Curva-Lish Survivor" highlight because of your journey of surviving a tragedy and we believe your life's journey is continuing to unfold in a very powerful way!  Before we start, tell us a little bit about yourself and background.

Mercedes: Thank you so much for selecting me!  I'm a first generation Latina that was raised in a loving tight-knit family in Kansas City. My mother was from Nicaragua, my father was from Colombia.  My older sister was born here in the US, and I was born in Canada.  I was blessed to have been born into a family that loved to travel and experience new things, so I'm grateful for the childhood they gave me with many enlightening experiences. My sister and I were the 1st generation of our family to pursue a college education so we went into it with much ambition and pride. I majored in International Business and met my husband at Northwest Missouri State University.  Now as a working mother of 4 boys (two sets of TWIN boys!) I enjoy the daily challenges of juggling all the blessings God throws my way.

Curva-Lish:  Take us back to that day in Colombia as a 21 year old...what was that day like leading up to the accident?

Mercedes: My parents and I were headed to Cali, Colombia on my 21st birthday to celebrate Christmas and New Years with our family.  I spent the 1st leg of the flight with my mother and then moved to the row behind her to sit with my father for the remainder of the flight.  I fell asleep on his shoulder and remember waking up to turbulence. Without any warning or announcement, the pilots powerfully pulled the nose of the plane straight up and panic broke out in the cabin of that 757 for those 10-15 seconds.  The entire plane was violently shaking and the engines were screeching and grinding.  I was terrified but hearing my mom pray out loud kept me hopeful that everything would be ok.  My last memory was hearing a loud booming sound at the back of the plane, I remember squeezing my dad's hand tight and closing my eyes.

Curva-Lish:  When you were awakened on that side of the mountain that day and during the subsequent 18 hours, what types of thoughts did you have that you can share with our readers?

Mercedes: Once I realized that what I woke up in was a plane wreckage, I had a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts running through my head.  My logic button in my head was turned off so it never occurred to me that my parents may have passed away, I just assumed "If I'm ok, they're ok."  My emotions went from frustration, to anger, to humility.  I spent much of my time thinking about the people that had made a difference in my life who I loved very dearly -- those people that believed in me and encouraged me as I grew up.  I spent much time in prayer begging God to please grant me a second chance at life.  I made many promises on that mountain to make my life worthy of a second chance.  I knew I had a blessed life that I wanted to get back to.

Curva-Lish:  There are many success books and motivational speakers who focus on the mind and how our thoughts contribute to who we are and what we become.  We would like for you to share with us how a person's sheer "will" and "determination" plays a part in surviving.

Mercedes: No matter who you are, we all are survivors (or WILL be survivors) of some kind of life altering/character-making experience.  Whether it's a health crisis, a career failure, a divorce, or a personal setback -- we all have or will face our own mountains that will either break us down or strengthen our resolve to succeed more than ever.   But I've learned that God never gives us more than what we can handle.  As cliche as that may sound -- we all have that inner strength to overcome all the obstacles that come our way, you just have to believe you can as the first and most important step.  Negative or defeated thoughts, feelings or people are contagious -- so always surround yourself with uplifting messages and uplifting people.  Life is too short to allow others to bring you down in their own mountains.

Curva-Lish:  What have you done since this tragedy to turn what could have been a life-ending and no-hope situation into one that has become a platform for your life's purpose?

Mercedes: With the encouragement of family and friends, I went on to a successful career in sales.  I began sharing my story of survival with small groups and eventually I was using up all my vacation days from work to do speaking engagements.  Finally I decided to take the plunge to do professional speaking full time and it has been the most personally rewarding career turn I've ever made.  Presently I travel everywhere from Dubai to Des Moines and everywhere in between doing professional development and workplace safety programs for clients big and small. It's more than just about the plane crash -- it's about the choices we all can make to live and work in a more purposeful and passionate way.

Curva-Lish:  One of the themes we noticed on your website is a phrase that stood out to us: "the second chance".  Can you speak to this phrase for those readers who are currently in a situation in which they need a spark of knowing that there is "the second chance" on the other side of every tragedy, accident and/or circumstance?

Mercedes: I begged for that second chance at life when I was on that mountain and was fortunate enough to receive one.  An important pillar in my life now is realizing that every day we wake up we've been granted a second chance at life.  Whatever obstacles, heartaches or issues you had yesterday have now been given a clean slate on how you choose to conquer them.  If we see each day as a brand new second chance, we can spend our day answering this question:  "What am I going to do with my new second chance today?"  When you see your life on that level, you live your day with purpose, not just go through the motions.

Curva-Lish:  We at Curva-Lish are committed to supporting women by making posts that are inspiring and help women create/develop/maintain their individual authentic lives.  How do you wake up every day and continually stay inspired to make your focus one of survival as opposed to focusing on the tragic event that happened at such a young age?

Mercedes: We have all earned many stripes through the obstacles we have overcome.  It's entirely too easy to slip into focusing on what's wrong in our lives rather than focusing on all that is so right.  My youngest set of twin boys were sadly born with a very rare, life limiting disease (Mucolipidosis II) with a life span of only 3-7 years.  Last week we happily celebrated their 4th birthday.  When my husband and I received this horrible diagnosis it was like getting hit by a speeding truck -- we were shocked.  But we made the resolve to enjoy every day we are given with them, and celebrate what they CAN do, not lament what they CAN'T do.  If I wouldn't have learned my inner strength from surviving that plane crash, I may not have had the strength to face the battle I am currently going through.  Every woman reading this has their own inner strength to fight for what they want, fight for who they love, and fight for what they want to achieve.  Remember the quiet power of water -- it can break through and reshape mountains!  Reshape your own mountains... steadily and passionately.

Curva-Lish:  What is the best advice you have ever received?
Mercedes: My parents used to tell me "Dime con quién estás y te diré quién eres." (Tell me who you are with and I will tell you who you are.)  I've learned that the people you surround yourself with can play a big role in your attitudes, your ambitions and your trajectory of your life.  Surround yourself with positive and lovingly uplifting people!  I find myself telling my children the same thing.

For more information on how to support Mercedes and the causes she cares about, go to:

As always, we hope you are inspired by this post to survive and stay positive no matter what current life situation you have overcome, are in or have yet to face.

The Curva-Lish Team