Angel Wings Over Lake Murray

By: Shannon Shull

I have the privilege of driving across the Lake Murray Dam almost every day during the week. I’ve written a blog about this before, describing the peace and joy the beautiful views crossing that dam bring me. But a recent journey crossing that incredible dam literally took my breath away with its glorious view.

Angel Wings Over Lake Murray

The pictures will speak for themselves. They are untouched – no editing at all. It was another extremely long day of teaching, one that started at the usual 5 a.m. After an after-school faculty meeting, I was finally headed home. My eyes caught a glimpse of a gorgeous sunset to my right. Its beauty called out to me, but I had to keep my eyes on the road. I carried out my usual habit of rolling down the window, holding up my phone and just clicking away as I kept my eyes on the road. I had no idea of the immense beauty that was before me. In person, I did not get the opportunity to take in the heavenly view, but I was blessed with having captured it on my phone. I made it across the dam, got hung up in traffic, and while stopped, took the moment to look over my pictures…WOW. Words could not describe what I saw. My heart, mind and soul instantly saw, felt, and thought of angel wings watching over me.

Angel Wings Over Lake Murray

See what you will. No matter what you see in the pictures, I know you will see something breathtaking. I will forever treasure these pictures because for me it represents a beauty that is indescribable on many levels, a reminder of the beauty of the world, a reminder of how blessed I am to see this beauty and appreciate it… a reminder of my angels watching over me.

My Aha Moment

By: Katie Austin

lightbulbHave you ever experienced that one moment that changes everything? I don’t mean in a bad way. It’s that “aha” moment when you suddenly realize something and it sets you in motion, changing your outlook completely?

My “aha” moment happened to me earlier this summer. We were together with family and friends at a local outdoor volleyball tournament. The weather was great, sunny and warm. Laughter was in the air and it was just a great weekend with everyone. No better way to kick off the summer!

On the last day while gathered in a group, one of the topics we talked about was health and fitness. I mentioned that I was going to start a workout routine, eat better and start taking my health seriously. Then it happened. That moment that changes everything! My 19-year old son, Brandon, leaned over to me and said “Momma, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you should to talk about what you ARE doing and not what you are going to do. You will feel better about it.”

WOW! What could I say to that? I couldn’t get mad. Well I could, but how do you argue with the truth? He was right! I thought back over the weekend and realized that my first response to a friend that I haven’t seen in years was to immediately made excuses for how I looked rather than enjoying the conversation. What was I thinking? Like they really wanted to hear about why I wasn’t where I wanted to be?

In my latest post, Life After Cancer Treatment, I opened up and shared my feelings/struggles post treatment. In short, I simply jumped headfirst back into the pool of life without thinking about how I was going to swim/stay afloat. Now, after this “aha” moment that I had with my son, I realized that I needed to focus on action and not words. I needed to stop talking about the things I was going to do and act on what it is I wanted out of life. It was time to make today my tomorrow!

So, first step – get back to a healthier version of myself. I didn’t want to do this alone, so I recruited my husband! We sat down that next weekend, decided on what our goals would be and how we could take baby steps to accomplish them.

Here is what we came up with:

  • Walk 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. This is a start. If we want to add more when time allows, we can do so. We have to start somewhere and this worked with our schedules.
  • Try to lose 1 pound per week. Would I love to lose more? Yes! But I needed to be realistic. If I lose 1 pound per week AND it stays off, then that works just fine. I wanted to send those extra pounds packing for good! 🙂
  • Monitor what we eat. There are several free apps that you can download to your phone or use from your computer. We love MyFitnessPal because it has made tracking our eating habits easy. For instance, you can use the barcode to scan in items that you purchase. How cool is that! I would caution you that you may instantly go into shock when you see what you have been actually eating…I did! That in itself can be an “aha” moment, especially when you find out how many calories you consume during a meal eaten at your favorite restaurant!

This has been the BEST decision and we love catching up on things as we walk! Typically, you will find us walking the Lake Murray Dam during the week because we have found that it forces us to start and finish. You can start on the Irmo side, walk to the Lexington side, walk back to the Irmo side, and you have walked approximately 3.6 miles. You can walk less or more, and star or stop where you want to. It is up to you. There are others out there walking so if you are walking alone, throw on your headset and listen to your favorite music. You will be met with smiles and a beautiful view of the lake, so you can’t go wrong 🙂

Lake Murray Dam

Ok, you are probably wondering if we are seeing results…. I saved the best for last! ☺ Drum roll please!

We are finishing our 9th week and to date, my husband has lost 25 pounds and I have lost 12.8 pounds! We still have a ways to go, but making small changes over 9 weeks has really helped us to stay committed. We find ourselves motivated, having more energy, and enjoying the outdoors more than ever!

“You don’t have to be great, but you have to start to be great.” – Zig Zagler

Remember to start small, set realistic goals and know that every step you take is moving you closer to where you want to be. It’s not how quick you get there but how much you enjoy the journey!

The Lake Murray Dam

By: Shannon Shull

I’ve mentioned before that the highlight of my long commute to work is crossing the beautiful Lake Murray dam. Some (all-too-early) mornings I witness the mystical moon glow across the water. Some mornings I get to lay eyes on incredible sunrises that would take your breath away, and the crown glory of a long hard day of teaching…being audience to an out-of-this-world sunset as I finally make my way home.

Today was a day in which the weather decided to taunt us all with the riches of Spring. Only last week the ground was covered with snow and yet today the temperature hit the 70s. So crossing the dam this afternoon on the way home was like a mini spiritual journey. The lake was right there, beaming in all its glory as the setting sun was bouncing its warmth everywhere, creating a spotlight on what seemed like a mirage. And the mirage said to me, “Hang in there, summertime is a comin’!” And am I ever ready!!!

The dam was seriously an amazing sight today, a foreshadowing of the joys of Spring and Summer to come.  Walkers and runners packed the sidewalk. Birds were flying, fish were jumping and boats littered the water. I could feel the energy in the air as I drove slowly trying to keep the dam experience from ending. Check out the pictures I was able to sneak…

The view from my car...

Oh the dam!!

Sunset glow on the dam

The Lake Murray Dam Sunset

Knowing I had a blog entry to write, my journey crossing the dam today, the tease of Spring inspired me to write about this impressive SC state treasure. I came across some fabulous information about the history of the Lake Murray Dam that I just have to share.

“Lake Murray is named after William Murray, the engineer who, with his partner T. C. Williams, conceived and persevered until “the world’s largest earthen dam” at that time was finished. Their vision of harnessing hydroelectric power here and at the Santee Cooper project brought abundant electricity to the middle part of South Carolina. Work on the dam across the Saluda River was started on September 21, 1927 and was finished on June 30, 1930. During construction of the dam, a Movietone news crew filmed the construction, and the newsreel footage has been preserved at the University of South Carolina. The dam itself was built over 200 feet tall. It runs a distance of a mile and a half across. The ground level of the dam is over a quarter of a mile thick. The lake that it forms is forty-one miles long and, in places, over fourteen miles wide. State Highway 6 runs along the top of the dam, giving a panoramic view of the water on one side and the layout of the SCE&G Power Plant below.

The lake has over 500 miles of shoreline, and forms an impoundment of over 50,000 acres. To make the building of the lake possible, more than 1000 tracts of land were acquired, and 5,000 people’s homes were relocated. In its conception, it gave jobs and cheap electricity to the people of the Midlands of south Carolina, and in its enduring, gives them lasting beauty and enjoyment.”

I remember my Dad having a book about the making of the dam. It showed pictures of the land before they filled in the massive area with the water. Whole towns, homes, railroads… I remember being totally fascinated by the pictures.  According to,

“Approximately 100,000 acres of land was purchased for the building of the dam and lake. Land was purchased from more than 5000 families. The land sold between $15 and $45 an acre.

To make room for the lake, nearly a dozen communities had to abandoned, including Derrick, Pine Ridge, Selwood, Wessinger, Cantsville, Leaphart, Savilla, Boyleston, Lorena, Holly’s Ferry and Lorick’s Ferry.

Six schools, three churches and about 193 graveyards containing 2,323 graves had to be moved. Some families chose not to move the graves, and at several area churches there are monuments with these names listed.

To clear the land and log the trees, from the area to be covered by water, an average rate of 50 cents per day, was paid to 2,000 men to clear the 65,000 acres by hand using crosscut saws and axes. Out of the trees cut down, 100 million board feet of lumber was manufactured. Some of the lumber was used in the construction of the dam and some was used to build a three-mile railroad between the dam site and what is known today as Irmo.”

As a child, I remember stories of my father and grandfather diving off of the towers. In high school, rebels would spray paint messages on the towers. I remember riding on wave runners with high school friends and falling off into the water right at the towers one time. Let’s just say, I completely freaked out! I had visions of catfish the size of a bus snapping up to swallow me whole! I couldn’t get back on that wave runner fast enough!

Crossing the fabulous Lake Murray dam every weekday reminds me that growing up on Lake Murray was and is pretty darn special and I’m certainly thankful for the opportunity to be reminded of its glory each day on my trek to teach.

Any special Lake Murray Dam stories to share? If you’re a local, I’m sure you’ve got some fond memory that comes to mind! Do tell! Smiles to all and here’s to our continued survival of Spring Fever! 😉

Getting to the Core

By: Katie Austin

Today was the day that life would take me on a detour.  I had been procrastinating for some time, waiting for the perfect “tomorrow” to start working out and eating right.  To think, almost two years ago I was battling breast cancer and struggled to keep food down as I battled nausea from my chemo treatments.  Now, I love the taste of food and my body is paying the price.  It was time to take action to become the healthier version of myself.

My intentions were good that Thursday afternoon as I took off across the Lake Murray Dam the stretches from Lexington to Irmo.  I parked my car, took a swig of water and told myself that today was the day.  I felt good as I walked and at times, I ran as far as I could, then walking fast to keep up a good pace.  I made it to the other side in Irmo (approximately 1.7 miles) and was motivated to travel the same distance back to Lexington.   I have to admit, a motivating factor was that my car was parked on the Lexington side of the dam so if I wanted to drive home, I would have to walk back 🙂

Lake Murray Dam sidewalk facing Lexington

I made it to my car and as I sat drinking the rest of my water, I was feeling pretty good about starting my exercise program.   I was already thinking about what I would do the next day to keep myself moving in this healthier direction, but when I woke up the next morning, things would change.  I would spend the next three weeks trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

I awoke the next day with pain in my upper-right back like I have never experienced before!  I had a lot on my plate that weekend and chalked things up to soreness coming from starting a new exercise routine.  I ignored my back pain and didn’t seek medical attention until the following Tuesday.  What would follow next was a series of doctor appointments, scans and tests to rule out whether or not my cancer was back.  Talk about stressed out as I felt like my life was spiraling out of control again!  They ended up ruling out a cancer recurrence (thank goodness!!) and determined that I had pulled or torn a muscle in my back.  I found myself extremely relieved that it wasn’t cancer, but at the same time frustrated, worried and one big ball of stress as I just wanted to know how I could make the pain go away.

I really pondered how a simple brisk walk with short sprints over a 3.4 mile stretch could cause the pain that I was in, but then it hit me – I didn’t take baby steps to get back into shape, but a full leap forward which stressed my body out.  Since completing my breast cancer fight, I haven’t really taken the time to get my strength back, ensuring that my “core” is where it should be to support my new workout.  Did I really think I could jump back into life, doing my normal routine and playing sports without taking the time to ensure that I was physically ready?  I have since relieved my back pain after seeing a physical therapist and reversing my bad habits that weakened my back to begin with.

Sometimes mind over body needs to be the reverse.  If I can give any advice to those beginning their workouts, take it slow, listen to your body and set reasonable goals.   My mistake was that I was trying to accomplish a lot in a little bit of time, which ended up setting me back several weeks.    Now, I have a new focus and direction which gives me hope that I will continue on my path to better health.

“He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.”

I wanted to share this recent personal experience so that if there are readers going through something similar that it gives you hope that no matter what comes your way that, in time, things will get better.   I am feeling better, healthier with each passing day and I know that I will reach my goal in due time even if it takes many baby steps to get there.

If you have a suggestion for a health program that works best for you, post it here!   I hope to see some of you during my walks on the dam.  I wear pink in honor of my breast cancer sisters, so I am sure I will be easy to spot 🙂