Despite a busy schedule that includes her full-time job as a physical therapist, running the foundation she and her husband, Jeff, started together and being a mom to two little girls, Amy Kyle sets aside time to write each month for Waco Moms Blog. “I have written [about] a wide variety of things, from grace and forgiveness to wine pairings for toddler tantrums,” Kyle said.
And perhaps in the same way that wine and children’s misbehavior can complement each other, Kyle recognizes that life’s struggles and its joys often go hand in hand, adding to the challenge of maintaining balance. Those times when life is off balance, Kyle said, it’s important to remember two words — “Nobody’s perfect” — and to rely on her support system of family and resources.
WACOAN: So you’re a physical therapist. What kind of patients do you see — car accident victims or athletes with sports injuries?
Kyle: I work in an orthopedic outpatient clinic, Baylor Scott & White Outpatient Rehabilitation in Hewitt, so we see everything from just your general, run-of-the-mill back pain to sports injuries to neurological patients to amputees — just about everything.
WACOAN: What led you to do physical therapy?
Kyle: When I was younger my grandma was a nurse; she was a nurse for almost 40 years at Providence, actually. So I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, but I didn’t think I wanted to do the same things that some of the nurses have to do. So honestly, I think I Googled it or something. I decided to do physical therapy when I was in high school, and it just turned out to be the best thing for me.
So within that process of going to college I actually did work in a physical therapy clinic for quite some time just to make sure that it was exactly what I wanted to do. But I liked the idea. I wanted to be in the medical field in terms of helping people.
WACOAN: So you’re pretty hands-on, you’re right there with the patients during their therapy.
Kyle: Yeah, 100 percent. At our facility we see our patients for 45 minutes one-on-one, generally. So it’s pretty hands-on, and it’s fun. I like the interaction with the patients.
WACOAN: So what is your educational background? What is the requirement for you to become a physical therapist?
Kyle: Physical therapy is now a doctoral program. So I did my undergrad at Texas A&M, graduated in 2006, and then I went to University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. At that time there was a transition between the master’s and the doctorate, and so I actually ended up graduating with my master’s and then about a semester later I graduated with my doctorate. And that was in May of 2010.
WACOAN: Wow. Is it usually that accelerated for people, or is that just because you were on the cusp of it transitioning from a master’s to a doctorate?
Kyle: The doctoral programs for PT school now — you have to have an undergrad, a bachelor’s [degree], but most of them are 2 1/2, some of them are three years. So it’s a lot of school.
WACOAN: And do you have to do a residency just like a regular medical doctor would?
Kyle: We do clinical rotations. Every program is a little bit different, but you do several rotations working in the field. Sometimes I am a clinical instructor, so students will come to our facility, and I will be their instructor in terms of their clinical education.
WACOAN: Oh, that’s neat. How do you like that part of the job?
Kyle: I like that part. I don’t like it all the time because it’s a lot of work, but it is fun every now and then. It throws something different in there as opposed to just the same patient treatment every day. I have had two or three students, I think, at this point. I like to space them out.
WACOAN: So what does a typical day look like for you? Walk me through your routine as far as seeing patients.
Kyle: I see patients from about 8:00 o’clock in the morning to my last patient is about 4:15 in the afternoon. Number one, I have two kids to get up in the mornings, and I have to get my kids to school. But then it’s walking in the door, you have to do some chart reviews, looking at your schedule for the day ahead, looking to see if you have any holes because that might be a good time to catch up on some of the other things that I manage within the clinic. And then it’s just patient care. Pretty much 90 percent of it is patient care from the time I get there to the time I leave, and the rest of it is paperwork most of the time.
WACOAN: You mentioned you have two kids?
Kyle: Two girls. Brintley is 7. She started second grade. And Leighton is 5. She just started kindergarten.
WACOAN: Where do they go to school?
WACOAN: And what are they like? Tell me a little bit about their personalities.
Kyle: Brintley is very smart. She’s very motherly — I think that was one of the descriptions that one of her teachers gave one time. She’s kind of my type-A personality. She always wants to be leading the situation. She’s good at school; she doesn’t really get in any trouble. It doesn’t take much in terms of discipline for her. She was kind of our easy baby, easy toddler.
And then Leighton is kind of the opposite end of the spectrum. She’s a little spicy — she’s fun, though. She has a really good personality, she’s funny. She and I have a lot of the same attitudes or answers to questions. She’s been different and challenging at times — my husband and I definitely had to learn a different way of parenting with her than we did with our first. But it’s good.
It’s nice to have the contrasting personalities in our house. It keeps everything fun, exciting and a little on edge, which is always good.
WACOAN: What do they like to do?
Kyle: My oldest daughter is in gymnastics, and she’s been doing that for almost five years. And my youngest does dance.
WACOAN: And your husband — what’s his name?
Kyle: His name is Jeff Kyle.
WACOAN: How did you guys meet?
Kyle: We actually were working at a physical therapy clinic together in College Station when I was going to Texas A&M.
WACOAN: He’s a physical therapist, too?
Kyle: He is not, no. At that time he was just working there. He was in the military, in the reserves at that time, going back to school. When we met we were dating other people, and we developed a friendship first and then started dating. And it wasn’t that long after that — probably five or six months — when he actually got activated in the reserves and ended up having to get deployed.
Before he deployed he asked me to marry him, so we got engaged. He deployed for seven months [and when] he got back, we got married.
WACOAN: That sounds very exciting but kind of stressful at the same time, I would imagine. Is he still in the military?
Kyle: He is not. He got out in 2008.
WACOAN: What does he do now?
Kyle: Currently he does research and design for a company called United States Tactical. They’re [under the umbrella of] a company called Red Rock Outdoor [Gear], and they’re local. And so what he does is he researches and designs tactical equipment — so equipment for police departments, military, the everyday guy, just about anybody who’s into tactical-type activities or firearms or really just outdoor gear as well.
WACOAN: What do you guys like to do together when you have free time? If you were going to go out on a date night in Waco, where might you go?
Kyle: That is a good question. We don’t get a lot of free time — we both work and then we have a foundation as well. The most recent date we went on, we went downtown. It was a First Friday, so we did Balcones Distillery and went down to the [Waco Winery Rooftop]. We’ve wandered down to a couple of other little bars downtown. It’s really just getting to hang out and honestly experience Waco in a different way. I grew up here, and it’s a lot different now than it used to be, so it’s been fun to get to re-establish that relationship with Waco with Jeff, as opposed to just what I remember it being from growing up here.
WACOAN: Did he grow up in Waco too?
Kyle: He did not. He grew up in Midlothian.
WACOAN: So his experience of Waco is probably pretty different than yours.
Kyle: Right, absolutely. It’s fun, though. We enjoy it. It’s impressive — it’s come a long way. When we decided to move back, there was just so much more to offer here than there was when I was growing up. And I had a good upbringing. I loved it here, which was one of the reasons that we looked back here when we decided to move. But there’s just so much more to offer now, especially if you’re raising kids.
WACOAN: Are you talking about moving back from Galveston after you were finished with your schooling?
Kyle: No, we lived in Hamilton for a little while. I worked in Stephenville. We were there for about 2 1/2 years, and then once we had our oldest daughter we decided we wanted to put roots down somewhere. And Jeff actually really liked Waco. We came back here a lot because my family is here and we had a lot of friends here.
WACOAN: Who of your family is still here?
Kyle: My parents live here, and I’ve got aunts and uncles and cousins — we have a lot of family that lives here.
WACOAN: So you mentioned your foundation. What it’s called?
Kyle: It’s called American Valor Foundation.
WACOAN: And I read that you are related to Chris Kyle, is that right? [Editor’s note: Chris Kyle was a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL veteran. His autobiography, “American Sniper,” was the basis for Clint Eastwood’s film of the same name.]
Kyle: That’s correct, yes. My husband, Jeff, is Chris’ brother.
WACOAN: I’m curious — his name is pretty recognizable, so I’m wondering, were you close with him? What was your experience of being a family member?
Kyle: When Jeff and I first met and got together, [Chris] was living in California at the time. So when we did get to be around him, it was for chunks of time, like when we would go to California to visit them or they would come to Texas to visit us. And the relationship got better once they moved back to Texas, just because distance was no longer as much of a factor and we got to spend a little more time with them. Obviously, I was not as close with him as Jeff was by any means.
WACOAN: So you guys founded American Valor, and was that inspired in part by Chris? Obviously Jeff was in the military too.
Kyle: Absolutely. So what happened was that after Chris was killed, about a year later, we started off by just doing a memorial benefit. We didn’t expect it to be anything, to be honest. When we first started it, we were just going to do a benefit in his name and the proceeds were going to go to a foundation that he really was involved with and took part in.
Our first goal was just, let’s do something in memory of Chris and raise some money for a foundation he really enjoyed. We did that, and it was a huge success. So we thought, well, we could probably do this again. So the first two or three years was really just the benefit. Well, then we got a lot of response, and so we established the foundation. And now at this point we do still put on the benefit every year, but we also have several other events.
Generally with our benefit, we’re raising money for one other specific foundation that we vet, but with everything else that we raise money for, we’re either giving back directly to active military, veterans or first responders, or we’re giving back to the foundations that help support those same groups of people.
WACOAN: That’s wonderful. Are you guys super involved in the day-to-day [aspects] of that still, or do you have a staff that manages more of that for you?
Kyle: No, we have no paid staff. We 100 percent run the foundation and the benefit and all of the activities right now. It’s a lot of work. Jeff is actually president of the board, and I sit on the board as well, so [we’re] heavily involved, for sure. It does take a lot of extra time. But we have a really good team, so we can disperse the responsibilities pretty evenly within the team, and that definitely helps quite a bit.
WACOAN: So this article is called ‘Keeping Balance’ — what does balance mean to you? How do you achieve balance in your life?
Kyle: That is a good question. There are days that do not feel balanced by any means. There are days that I do it much better than others, that’s for sure. But I honestly think that to me, keeping balanced means making sure that whatever I’m doing to fill up our calendar is still a positive experience for everyone in our family.
So at whatever point I feel like I’m sacrificing something within our family, I tend to have to let that go. As long as I feel like we’re all benefiting and it’s making a positive difference and a positive change, it’s easy for me to see the good things out of all the things that we’re involved in. But when that does get off balance is when I have to think differently.
We’re also involved in our church — you know, there’s all those little things that are kind of stuck in there as well. And so I do sometimes have to ask myself, ‘Is everything really as important as you think it is? Is there something here that we need to let go of?’ in order to make sure that I’m not sacrificing time with my family or that my girls aren’t being pulled a hundred different ways, because that has happened in the past.
Like I said, I’m not always good at it. I’m not great at keeping the balance all the time. My husband is a huge contributor to that as well; he works really hard. He is 100 percent into household maintenance and management, helping with our girls. There’s no way I could do any of that without him helping as well. And my parents, because my parents live right here. Obviously I couldn’t do it without them either. It’s more like a support team that keeps us in balance, I think.
WACOAN: Where do you go to church?
Kyle: We go to church at Trinity Lutheran in Badger Ranch.
WACOAN: And what about hobbies? I know you said you don’t have a lot of time. But when you do get a moment to yourself, what do you like to do?
Kyle: Jeff and I both actually really enjoy the outdoors. So anytime we can get outside. We have some properties in different places, so we can get out there and be outside and enjoy the outdoors. We do a lot of fishing, we do some hunting. Even at our own house we have tanks and property so we’ll go out there and fish. I like to work out when I have time. I like art.
WACOAN: Creating art yourself, or —
Kyle: Yeah, or just admiring it.
WACOAN: Well, is there anything else you’d like to say or elaborate on?
Kyle: From the keeping balance standpoint, I think a lot of times it looks like, ‘How does that one person do all those things?’ Sometimes it’s taking it day to day. Sometimes it’s planning out the next two months. Sometimes it’s using all the resources I have that surround me. So I feel like sometimes it looks like you’re doing it alone, but it doesn’t work that way, ever. Keeping balance is definitely a community of people and a community of resources. So I think that’s important.