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Walking the Talk: Experiencing the LLLI Conference on Foot

Kathy Grossman
Sandy UT USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 6, December 2005-January 2006, p. 129.

As I stepped from the plane at Ronald Reagan National Airport on my way to my seventh LLLI Conference adventure in July 2005, the ribbed gray carpet with gold, crimson, and chocolate brown stripes greeted my feet. From that point on, I looked at the Conference from the perspective of shoes and sandals, tiles and carpets, and careful navigation on foot.

Rolling my heavy suitcase across rugs and marble into the elevator to my Hilton Washington hotel room, I marveled at the rich emerald and turquoise patterns of the carpeting. I shared this quiet sanctuary with fellow Utah Leader KeeNan and her sweet little five-week-old daughter, Jessica.

Every morning at 5:45 am, I pulled on my shorts, blue LLL t-shirt, and well-worn sneakers and tiptoed past my sleeping roommates to join a vigorous hike led by Alumnae Association walkers across the streets and sidewalks of different District of Columbia neighborhoods. Our first morning, we welcomed the early morning's cool temperatures and headed north on Connecticut Avenue to the Washington National Zoo. The next morning we power walked south down Connecticut Avenue's hill past Dupont Circle to the stern black gates of the White House's back entrance. The third morning's walk took us northwest along Embassy Row by the US Naval Observatory and, on our last day, we looped south again around Lafayette Park. During each of those walks I ended up talking with a different person -- from Connecticut to Israel to Alaska to Ireland -- and gained a new understanding of La Leche League's worldwide scope and breadth of experience.

After changing out of my morning's walking shoes, I dressed for each Conference day in comfortable sandals for the sessions, luncheons, and poster session and exhibit hall strolls. For the World Faire, I changed to beige leather sandals with curled up toes to go with my abaya, a black Arabian cloak, to represent my former home in the United Arab Emirates. I slipped on beaded leather slippers from the UAE for an elegant dinner at a small Indian restaurant near our hotel with my new Californian friend, Susan. Then, at the Gala Dinner, I wore open-toed strapped wedges with my Thai dress with the embroidered elephants. Once every two years at these conferences I get to really dress up and show off a pedicure!

Relaxing by the pool area and looking at the patterned bricks puddled with rainwater from storms contrasted with gliding along the quiet carpet nap of the Hilton's "President's Walk," which is lined with framed illustrations and photographs of all the US Presidents and their First Ladies. The navy blue walkway carpeting with leafy designs in butterscotch, maroon, and ecru was soothing to the eye and my feet.

From the Capital Café's carpet of small tan sunbursts on the mottled maroon and tan diamonds to the cement and asphalt of the DC neighborhoods to the silver slats of the hotel escalators, we walked the talk of a robust breastfeeding support and information organization. Coming together by plane, train, car, and on foot, we all connected to celebrate our common commitment and the joy of our shared fellowship.

Kathy Grossman, a Leader since 1985 and Leaven cartoonist since 1997, has led with Groups in seven Areas across North America. After a year in the low desert of the United Arab Emirates on the shore of the Persian Gulf, Kathy is now at home in the high desert of northern Utah near the shore of the Great Salt Lake. She and her husband, Tom Dillon, have three sons: Sam (22), Ed (20), and Monty (17).

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