Never be average.
This is the message that sisters Sarah Rusca-Cline and Samantha Messersmith want to give other women, especially those who have suffered infidelity, a divorce or other soul-attacking trauma.
"You can come back, and you can win," Messersmith said. "You're not alone: We've been there."
Rusca-Cline, 33, and Messersmith, 29, were born and raised in Pleasanton, attended Donlon Elementary and Pleasanton Middle School, and graduated Foothill High in 2001 and 2005, respectively. Their parents Leslie and Larry Rusca still live here.
Although the sisters have settled in the Seattle area, they are returning to the Tri-Valley on Tuesday to launch their book, "Revived: Life After the Affair."
"The book is a memoir of life, betrayal and redemption, from the level of destruction after somebody leaves and you can't figure it out -- to finding hope," Rusca-Cline said.
The sisters weren't particularly close growing up, due to the age difference. Then Samantha was attending Sacramento State when she and a girlfriend were walking through their apartment complex on their way to a New Year's Eve party and three men held them up.
"One put a gun in my mouth," she recalled.
Her parents came that night to bring her home to Pleasanton, and she was hysterical the next day talking to Sarah in Washington, who said, "Come live with me."
"That changed my life," Messersmith said. "I suffered from massive anxiety and depression. I had planned my life so well -- and it was all ripped away from me. When you go through something traumatic and someone is there for you, it creates a bond that is unbreakable."
The sisters began to share and analyze their experiences; when Rusca-Cline's husband was unfaithful, they drew even closer and their life paths began to merge.
"We had experienced a lot of life-changing, traumatic events, such as marriage, divorce, infidelity, being held at gunpoint, being kicked out of college," Rusca-Cline said. "Some people experience it over a lifetime but not in so short a time as we did."
The sisters ended up being branch managers for the same financial institution, although at different sites.
In April 2014, they started a website, NeverBeAverage.com, and began writing an advice column for women. After work, they would meet at each other's homes to discuss topics and write blogs for the site.
"Eventually our website was in 100 different countries, and we were connecting with women around the world," Rusca-Cline said.
Their passion to help other women began to burn inside them, Rusca-Cline recalled, and after 10 years of climbing the corporate ladder, they began to ask themselves: What is our purpose? They felt they had gained immeasurable personal growth in recovering from their bad experiences, and they wanted to make it easier for other women.
"On July 8, 2015, we took a leap of faith and left the corporate world," Rusca-Cline said. "We said we were going to do this full time."
The two women have degrees in social studies from University of Washington. They continued to study, reading stacks of self-help books and examining what made others successful in public speaking. They turned Never Be Average into a business, and began one-on-one life coaching via telephone or Skype.
"It just started taking off," Rusca-Cline said. "We got hired for speaking engagements, at Foothill High School, Livermore High, Cal High."
CooperVision signed them up to speak to female optometrists.
Many women find them through internet searches for phrases such as "how to get over cheating," Rusca-Cline said. The New York Post recently did such a search, contacted them and used Rusca-Cline's experiences to start its recent story, "Brangelina proves you should never trust a cheater."
A year ago, the sisters wrote a book called, "So What Now?" with tools to create change in one's life. They use it as a workbook in their life coaching.
The book was published on Amazon Kindle, and after that success, the sisters decided to put out a book detailing Rusca-Cline's personal experiences, "Revived: Life After the Affair."
Messersmith is the writer of the two, and they agreed Rusca-Cline needed to once again tell her sister everything that had happened to her, so they would leave nothing out of the book.
"She would sit next to me and talk out her story, and I would take note after note after note," Messersmith recalled. "There are scenes that women would be ashamed or embarrassed to have -- I had to push her to go deeper, and things would come up that I didn't know. Sometimes she had to walk out of the house to breathe, it was getting so heavy for her."
"Revived: Life After the Affair" begins with Sarah growing up in Pleasanton with its beautiful homes and parks and top-rated schools, and the idea of a perfect life, Messersmith said.
"There are so many great things about growing up in a community like Pleasanton," she said. "And leaving the bubble of Pleasanton has taught Sarah and me so much -- about how no one is exempt from life happening."
What: Sneak peeks of "Revived: Life After the Affair"
Who: Authors Sarah Rusca-Cline and Samantha Messersmith
When: 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 25
Where: The Studio, 730 Camino Ramon, No. 200, Danville
Other: For women only. RSVP needed; go to NeverBeAverage.com