Heidi B. Gallmeyer-Felix – Fired to Fabulous

My crazy story started over 29 years ago. I was a young professional who started working at Eastman Kodak only 5 weeks after graduation from UMASS Amherst. I relocated from my hometown in Pittsford, New York to pursue my dream of Living and Working in New York City. I left my college sweetheart to finish his senior year in college and my family to live alone on Long Island. The first year was brutal trying to find my way, literally navigating my sales territory in Queens with a map long before GPS was invented.  It was a lonely time and I struggled to make it on my own. In time I learned how to live on a small budget in an expensive city. My second year was harder because my college sweetheart moved in with me, but was not able to contribute to our household expenses. He was studying to be a stock broker and cold calling for a large investment firm. We tried to make it work as a couple, but his lifestyle changed when he started living large trying to maintain the Wall Street image. The “Wolf of Wall Street” was a true depiction of the life a stockbroker led at that time.

One night I met a man at a birthday party for a college friend. He was quite charming and completely different than my college sweetheart. He pursued me until I finally left behind my stockbroker for a certified arborist. My new man had just started a tree care company and was eager to make a living saving trees from disease. I was anxious to use my degree in Marketing to help him with business advice. We were good together when we first met. I made a good living and he relied on me to help him implement business practices and organize the new company. He proposed only 8 months after we met because he feared I would leave him for my previous boyfriend who was now a wealthy stockbroker. We were married only 18 months after we first met.

Looking back at my life I never saw the warning signs; jealousy, insecurity and narcissistic behavior. I was in love with my husband and we were building a company and new life together. I was doing extremely well at my job, so good that the competition offered me an amazing opportunity. I decided to leave Kodak to join Xerox Corporation. I was excited because in my new career I was making 10 times what my husband earned each month. It never bothered me because we were partners in life. I helped with bookkeeping and daily management of our little tree company. I got pregnant but, unfortunately, lost that baby; we were both devastated. After genetic counseling and many doctor visits, we knew the stress of my demanding job in Manhattan may have caused my miscarriage. I decided to transfer to the Long Island office and take a different sales position to reduce my stress. I took a job with less responsibility, an easy commute and got pregnant again immediately. My baby girl was born healthy and entered our world in November 1998. As a sales person, the 4th quarter was the busiest time of year at my company. I needed to return back to work to support my family when my baby was only a few weeks old. My husband was not enthusiastic to be our child care provider because had a tree company to run. We found a family member who was hired to babysit our newborn girl. A few months later I was pregnant with twins. I lost one of the twins early in the pregnancy and had major complications for the next five months. I was on disability and we struggled to make ends meet. I was forced to return back to Manhattan only 6 weeks after my baby boy entered our world. My days were crazy, commuting 3 hours each day to Manhattan, coming home to take care of my babies, my home and my husband’s company. My son was always sick and I was having a hard time managing everything. My son was 10 months old when he was hospitalized with a fever of undiagnosed origin. My husband and I took shifts to stay with our toddler while our baby boy was in the hospital. One night while at the hospital, I couldn’t sleep. I was responding to work messages at 3am. I sat there staring at my little miracle boy hooked up to IVs with a 105 fever. It was then that I had my epiphany. I had to leave my job and take care of children. My husband encouraged me to take a leave of absence to help him run his company. I thought life would be perfect. I woke up every morning taking care of my kids, my home and my husband. The bonus was using my business degree to actually help run his business full-time. Our company went from a one man show to over 13 employees in our first 10 years together. Business was thriving and we were finally working together every day.

Unfortunately, my husband took on a partner to help runs things while I was taking care of my sick baby. His partner was not a good man. He was a liar and a thief. The partner hired his mistress as an office manager. She set her sights on my husband. When I started questioning the missing money, trips to Florida and large expenses that we did not have money for, I was fired by my husband. He decided that it was best for our relationship that I was not involved in his business. Ironically, I was never a paid employee. I was the owner’s wife who invested 10 years of my salary, blood, sweat and tears to build my husband’s company. I thought we were partners for life. Sadly, I learned the hard way that nothing lasts forever. The craziest part of this story is that I stayed married to my husband for another 10 years before I finally had enough.

After leaving his company, I started working as a beauty consultant for Mary Kay. I won many awards; Queen of Sales and Queen of Recruiting. I won diamonds and jewelry at our monthly sales contests. I contributed to our household income, but this new job was not the six-figure salary that I earned in my corporate career. My husband grew bitter because he hated my Mary Kay business. He wanted me to return to a full-time corporate job to assist with our household finances. He never appreciated the job I did as a homemaker and mother. He started cheating with women that I knew. Finally, he was caught in a web of lies. I decided it was time for me to fire him as my husband. After 7 years of legal battles and owing my lawyer a fortune, I am finally free. I have no regrets. My children grew up with me by their side. My Mary Kay career gave me the flexibility to volunteer as class mom and to work with other parents in PTA to build friendships. I was a Girl Scout Leader, Cub Scout Leader and used my business skills to help our PTA board by organizing programs for our school district like “Parents as Reading Partners” and our semi-annual blood drives. I am involved in my church, teaching religion for the past 15 years in addition to being a Vestry member for 7 years to help our little church thrive. I was there for my children every day of their life until they were respectively 11 and 12.

After my husband and I separated, I had no choice but to return to work full-time to support myself. I have been a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant for over 15 years with customers who have walked with me through this journey. I managed to maintain two jobs for the past 7 years to make ends meet. My children learned to be self-sufficient and are now amazing young adults, doing fantastic in college. We have incredible memories that I would not trade for any amount of money. My children are my life and my legacy. Recently, I received recognition from an amazing organization on Long Island. I was nominated for Angel Awards of Long Island and won a special award with beautiful gifts. My daughter was by my side as I was recognized for my volunteer efforts in my community. My son cheered me on from college in South Carolina. Everything happens for a reason. I live my life by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” I am grateful for all that has happened to me because it made me into the independent woman that I am today. Looking forward to a brighter future for my children and me. Life is good and is getting better every day!

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