25 Is A Special Number

“Twenty-five years ago today I went to McDonalds and had pancakes,” my mom began as she took a bite out of her burrito from “Sol,” the Mexican restaurant located near the house I grew up in. “Afterward, I went to your grandmother’s house in Woodbridge when my water broke.” Karen and I looked at each other and prepared ourselves for the rest of the story, with my fiance sitting to my right and her new boyfriend sitting to my left.

“I was scared when my doctor told me I needed to have a sea-section because Ashley was having complications and needed to come out as soon as possible,” she went on. “I was so sick when I gave birth to you and your sister from toxemia,” I looked up at Karen, trying to catch her eye, but she silently stared at the tortilla chips in front of her. We knew the worst part was coming and I was wincing at the thought of the next detail she was going to share.

“I started hemorrhaging right after you two came out.” I released my breath just in time to get a glimpse of Michael. Surprisingly, he wasn’t phased at all, probably a sign that he’s really comfortable around my fam, and most importantly, my mother.

“My five-foot-nothin’ doctor jumped on top of the steel table trying to stop the bleeding. After everything, and I realized I was OK, I couldn’t wait to see my two beautiful babies,” her eyes swelled with tears.

“Ashley with her little hat on, and Karen all snuggled up with her baby blanket,” she started to cry. “I can’t believe my little girls are 25 today.”

Our 25th Birthday

The Next 25 Explained, Well Sort Of…

My mother has been telling our birth story every July 8th for the last 25 years, and in mixed company, which usually included my friends or my boyfriend at the time. (Put away the baby pictures and no one gets hurt, Ma!) I thought this year would be much like the others, but then I realized that I’m even more of an adult then I’ve ever been.

It’s been quite a year. I met the man of my dreams and got engaged, bought my first car, visited Europe for the first time, took a leap of faith and decided to leave my company to pursue my dreams of becoming a social media guru, and now I’m planning the rest of my life–pretty much as I write this.

Where does this leave me? Quite simply, I’m happy. Very happy…probably the happiest I’ve ever been. But I’ve been thinking, what have I learned in the past 25 years? What are the most important lessons I can pass on to others, including one day, my own children? So I think I’m going to blog about it. I’ll call it “25 Things To Remember For The Next 25 Years.” I don’t know what I’ll write about from day-to-day, but that will be part of the fun. The main goal I have is to just stay with it everyday. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? Wish me luck!

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Blast From The Past – Remembering My Shoprite Days…

When I was younger, I worked at the local Shoprite for part of my high school and entire college career.  One of my fondest memories was working in the customer service department. From Price Plus cards to coupon refunds, I did it all.  Although very stressful at times, I found it rewarding to help customers find what they were looking for and ultimately making loyal customers out of each one.

In the past few weeks, my customer service experience has emerged in lieu of my passion for social media.  I’ve been reaching out to what were at the time, dissatisfied customers to essentially fix any issues and ultimately “make it right.”  It’s been so long that I think I forgot how much I enjoyed it.  Which brings me to another topic I really love, teaching.

This week I had my first meeting with Customer Service (CS).  I was a little nervous because I just started using the new tool about two weeks ago.  Overall, I think it really went well.  I’m known as the expert with the tool and I’m excited because I’ll be training and assisting all users with any questions and concerns.

The best part is I really feel like I’m making a difference in every aspect of work  I do.  From the interns I manage, (who are awesome!) to the data I interpret, I’m really feeling in my element.

In the coming weeks, I have my first large presentation to many managers and directors at our Social Media Council meeting.  I am nervous, but with some serious preparation, I know I can do it.  More updates coming soon!  🙂

New Beginnings

For those of you who don’t know, I have decided to leave Turner Construction Company to pursue my dreams of working in online marketing and social media.  Although it was a very difficult decision for me, I know that my current opportunity was not one to pass up.

I am working as a Social Media Specialist for a large company within the travel industry.  I am responsible for the implementation of Social Media tactics and best practices.  For the summer, I am going to manage two interns who will help me with my research and the “listening” process before setting up our company accounts.  After they leave, I’m on my own with the support of my peers.

Tomorrow is day two of my new adventure, stay tuned for more progress reports!

Biking Is Like Breathing…

Check out the scenery!

[tweetmeme source=”ashleyrandazzo” only_single=false]My newest hobby is one I share with my fiance.  We love biking! It’s an event I look forward to each weekend.  Things have been a bit hectic at work and thankfully we’ve had some beautiful weather, so we’re on the bikes almost every weekend.

Just this past Saturday Mike and I went to the “Round Valley Roundabout” bike route in Hunterdon County.  This route is 28.4 miles of hilly goodness with some nice downgrades in between.  I have to admit though we did get lost and ended up on a

Riding by a farm...

wild adventure of some really steep inclines, which unfortunately got the best of us in 90 degree heat.  Instead of 28.4 miles, we ended up doing 30 miles.  Not too shabby for a newbie.

I think what I enjoy most about biking is being outside, breathing fresh air, feeling close to nature, getting some much needed exercise and of course being with Mike.  🙂  Some of the routes have some have beautiful streams which makes the entire experience very picturesque, almost like a nature painting.  I can’t want to see what route we’ll conquer this coming weekend!

Hi, I’m Nervous…

[tweetmeme source=”ashleyrandazzo” only_single=false]

Networking is scary.  Most of the time, when I meet someone new I’m like “Hi, I’m Ashley Randazzo,” but my subconscious kicks in and I’m slowly dying inside saying “Hi, I’m nervous.”  Networking isn’t for everyone, but it should be.  There’s so many benefits to it, from adding a new client to landing that dream job.

Let me share a personal story:

My boss encouraged me to join the Society For Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) a while ago and I joined with the turn of the new year.  I had the opportunity to go to a Social Media panel event a few months back and was excited because I knew I was ahead of the curve in the SM department.  Although the panelists did a great job presenting, the information presented was something I already knew and I felt that I should be included on the panel next time around.  So what did I do?

Well, I mustered up some courage and decided to approach the president of the NJ Chapter.  I was so nervous.  Even though I may not act like it, I get a lot of anxiety with meeting people in authority positions.  Anyway, I introduced myself, asked about how I might get on a panel, and the conversation tapered off with a firm handshake.  Of course I did all the right things, get his business card, send him a follow up email, and even followed him on Twitter and LinkedIn.  (Social Media…hello?!)

I never forgot about our meeting, and neither did he.  Fast forward to Wednesday of this week.  I received an email from Mr. President asking me to manage all of the social media for the NJ Chapter.  Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, it’s a SM fanatic’s dream!  And there’s me, right smack in the middle of it all.  Not only will I have a lot of freedom, but I’ll have some real exposure.  It’s not a paid gig, but the experience will tremendously beef up my resume.  Give a little, get a lot!

Lessons Learned:

Don’t be afraid to mingle.

Don’t be afraid to ask.

Find ways to be “remembered.”

More times than not, it’ll work out positively for you.

Ireland Trip – “I’m Irish” – Entry 5 (Final Entry)

Sadly, this will be my last post from Ireland.  I spent today “being a girl” and shopping with the family all day long.  They have such interesting stuff over here, and Karen and I had a great time picking things out for ourselves.  I bought a Claddagh ring and a beautiful Irish pendant for myself.  I set out to get things that are very different than the average stuff sold in the US, and I think I did pretty well! 😉

After shopping, we hit the Guinness Store House tour.  I really don’t like Guinness, but it would be highly un-Irish of me to not visit such a well-known landmark.  I learned a lot, and took some great photos of the place.  Hands down, the best part of the tour is the beer, but for me it doesn’t involve drinking it.  It’s where the beer in served inside the “Gravity Bar” located at the top of the entire building.  Visitors get a 360 degree view of Dublin from the highest point in the area.  Beautiful!  (Photos coming shortly.)

I must say my family and I enjoyed Ireland so much that we’re already talking about coming back. (And we haven’t even left yet!)  I think my fondest memory is the visit to County Mayo, where my Great Grandparents lived and visiting each of their towns.  Also, let’s not forget good old Mrs. Brighty Gallagher, the woman whom by only chance, knew my family.

I have always been proud to be Irish, but this trip has given me new-found insight to where I really come from.  It’s an overwhelming feeling to experience something like this like I have for an entire week.  The people are always happy, friendly and treat you like one of their own.  The surrounding scenery surpasses any beauty I’ve ever seen.  And I can’t forget my new appreciation of Irish cuisine.  From now on, when I’m asked my nationality, my answer has silently taken on a new meaning.  “I’m Irish.” (“…and a little Italian too!”)  🙂

Ireland Trip – Double Decker Buses & A Night of Irish Heritage – Entry 4

Yesterday turned out to be a pretty nice day after all! By nice, I mean no rain. 🙂 Anyway, we decided to take a tour around Dublin on one of those Hop-On, Hop-Off Double-Decker buses. We went everywhere around the city, but we got off to see the Cathedral of St. Patrick and Christ Cathedral. They were beautiful churches and I have a bunch of pictures of each.

After the tour, we attended a dinner-show in Dublin. They had a band and Irish dancers. Both were truly exceptional! The band was the best I’ve seen in Ireland. After the show, the band talked to my family for a few minutes before we left. People are so nice in Ireland, so much that they’ll talk to you about anything. Here are a couple of videos of the dancers and the band:

The Band

The Dancers