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Helen McDaniel / Amile Wilson
Lynn Currie / Amile Wilson
Davetta Lee / Amile Wilson
Kristi Bradley / Amile Wilson

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They’re in the boardroom in the morning and on the soccer field in the afternoon, often before scurrying off to a business dinner before tucking little ones into bed. They’re wives, mothers, career women and community activists. And they look great while doing it all. These are women who lead balanced lives–they’re doing it right.

“So many women I run into put themselves last, and that really hurts them,” said Helen McDaniel, owner of Pilates of Ridgeland. “As women, we have to put ourselves first, because we are the ones who steer the ship. If we don’t work to be the best we can be, then we can’t take care of our loved ones effectively.”

McDaniel was certified in Pilates in 2003, in California. When she and her husband, a vascular surgeon, moved to Mississippi in 2004, she opened her Pilates studio in Ridgeland. “I taught school for 15 years, and one day I woke up and said I need to do my ‘fun’ job every day!” But she realizes that her life can’t be all work. “Balance really is the key. I know I must make time for my family and myself. I have a hero of a husband, who served in Iraq and now saves people’s lives with his surgeries, and a 6-year-old son who keeps us both busy.”

Each year, McDaniel makes a resolution, or goal, for herself. “One year, it was to become Mrs. Mississippi. I prepared for the pageant and I won! I was up against women in their twenties and thirties, but I had made up my mind to go for it.” During her reign, McDaniel had the opportunity to travel around the state speaking out on the dangers of childhood obesity. Three years ago, McDaniel decided she’d learn to play tennis. “I’m still learning, but I’m obsessed with it. I try to take time every day to go hit some balls for a little while, and I play whenever I can.”

Surrounding herself with “amazing people” helps McDaniel run her business without stress. I have a wonderful office manager, Jeremy Martin, who takes care of the details I don’t like to get bogged down with, such as paying the bills and dealing with other paperwork. All I have to do is show up and have fun! I’m so lucky to have an amazing job. My studio is a beautiful place to go each day, and while actually doing Pilates, it forces me to live in the present moment. You have to concentrate, so you can’t do it and let your mind wander. I find that’s a good way to live the other areas of my life, as well.”

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Lynn Currie works full time as a nurse practitioner for a vascular surgeon at St. Dominic. She’s been in nursing for 25 years and loves what she does. “I’m fortunate that my work is flexible, so it allows me pockets of time to have lunch with friends, or get my hair and nails done occasionally.”

With a husband and three children ages 13, 11 and 8, Curries stays busy outside of work as well. “All three children are active in sports and music,” Currie said. “I want to give all of my children the gift of music in their lives.”

Working full time and managing an active family can be exhausting. That’s why Currie says she works out nearly every day. “I go to the gym early, about 5:15 a.m., while everyone else is asleep.” She mixes up her exercise routine, doing weights one day, cardio the next. “If I don’t exercise, I just don’t have as much stamina. When I do exercise, I can go all day, then sleep really well at night.” In her down time, Currie said that she enjoys being with her family at home. “Our favorite thing to do as a family is to rent a movie, pull out the TV trays and relax. I really enjoy being with my family.”

Davetta Lee credits a healthy diet for making her hectic life seem effortless. “I have always been into healthy eater, and my diet now includes eating no meat–I eat fish, fresh veggies and other ‘live’ foods. Even though my husband is a meat eater, I’m trying to instill healthy traits into our 2-year-old daughter.”

Lee is director of Mississippi Access to Justice, a commission that oversees how legal services are provided to people who cannot afford them. “We know we’re supposed to have ‘justice for all,’ but often there’s no justice for those who can’t afford legal services.” In her job, Lee makes policy recommendations to the Legislature and the Courts in order to strengthen the delivery system and to make programs work better together.

“I started this job right after I had my daughter, because it is more flexible. I needed a job that was family-friendly. When I was pregnant, I drove all around Mississippi going to the courts, handling several cases. Now I can affect a lot of people at once instead of on a case-by-case basis. I have had to learn that I can do many things at once, but not all of them well. I like the big picture approach better.”

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Married four and a half years, Lee met her husband on a blind date when she was a law student at Mississippi College. Being a career woman, wife and mother, as well as being active in the community with her sorority, Junior League and church means that Lee has many balls in the air at one time. “I’ve learned to live off less sleep, and I’ve learned to prioritize, and that includes not over-promising. I set realistic goals for myself.”

Taking care of herself is one of Lee’s priorities. “I am more into health than fitness, but I’m trying to work fitness into my life.” Lee’s “me time” includes taking the time to exercise, and often that’s at Pure Barre. “It’s a great workout, but not a sweaty workout. It’s something I can fit in during lunch if I need to.” She also has exercise DVD’s that she does at home, and her daughter joins in. “I took her to an ‘Itsy Bitsy Yoga’ class in Fondren and she loved it. I’m hoping to do more of that type of thing in the future.”

For over 17 years, Kristi Bradley has been a commercial lender at Trustmark. Now married and the mother of a 4-year-old son, Kristi has had to learn to balance work and motherhood while still taking care of herself.

“I used to get up each day and run, and I loved that. But I started getting tired from being up so early.” Because her husband is a fire fighter who is gone every third day, Bradley cannot run and leave her son home alone. “I had to find something else that would work with my schedule.”

Pure Barre was the answer for Bradley, who manages to get in a lunchtime workout three to four times a week. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried, but I really like it. It focuses on certain muscle groups, so it’s as mental as it is physical, because you have to concentrate so much.” Bradley does her workouts in Ridgeland, which works great for her since she’s at a Madison branch of Trustmark. Working out during the week keeps her weekends free for family. “I want to be sure I’m home when my husband is, because when he’s there, he’s all there.” The couple enjoys spending time with neighbors on weekends. “We are so fortunate that we live in a great neighborhood where we are all close friends. I look forward to spending time doing things with them.”

Because she had her son at what her gynecologist termed “an advanced maternal age,” Bradley said she enjoys her child so much more. “I am totally happy I waited. I think I appreciate kids more, and I have more time with my son now.” She is teaching her son that just as we eat to feel good and sleep to feel good, we also exercise to feel good. “He’ll come to me and say, ‘Mama, I need to exercise now!’”