Leadership Profile - Janita Van de Velde

Janita is the best boss I've ever had and is known for her candour, her sense of humour and her generosity

Leadership Profile - Janita Van de Velde
Janita was my boss for a few years - and a friend for life.

Janita Van de Velde grew up on a dairy, hog and grain farm near Mariapolis, Manitoba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural economics from the University of Manitoba, and worked for Farm Credit Canada for 27 years, after starting there as a summer student in 1994.

Janita is a former Grainews columnist and author of the award-winning travel memoir Postcards Never Written. Her book was the recipient of the Saskatchewan Reader’s Choice Award in 2008 and was also listed by CBC as one of the top funny books in 2009. In 2010, Janita was inducted into the 100th anniversary edition of the Canadian Who’s Who publication.

She is known for her candour, her sense of humour and her generosity – she donates a portion of all proceeds from the sale of her book to charity, most notably to World Vision and FCC’s Drive Away Hunger Campaign. To date, those donations have exceeded $30,000. She is currently working with the Regina Foodbank, along with the Regina Public and Catholic school divisions, to find a way to create an Angel Fund to support kids in every elementary school throughout the city. She’s convinced that we’ve been given more than we’ll ever need in this lifetime, and a firm believer that the line-up of people willing to help, should always be longer than the line-up of those in need. Even better, she believes a world like that is possible.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday?

I don’t differentiate between days of the week, so my ideal start to any day is about the same. Quite often a Sunday morning might be the most hectic with 3 kids in multiple sports, so you can find me in a constant state of prayer that I find the right hockey rink, and have brought along the correct child. Small wins, really.

My ideal start to any given day is being the first one up in the house, usually around 6:30am, where wrapped in the cocoon of silence I get caught up on pre-market activity, read about political and economic events that may shape the coming week and impact my stock portfolio. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to supply and demand charts, and I thoroughly enjoy the art of investing and finding bad things that have happened to good companies. I’ll go back and review the cyclical trends and 20-year history of a company, while attempting to project the optimum price point where share price will once again reflect intrinsic value for any given commodity. This is all best done in the wee hours of the morning, when your brain doesn’t hurt yet, and no one can see you crying.

Your current TV/Podcast/Blog or book obsession.

I don’t watch TV, and I have yet to listen to a podcast. (my decommissioned Blackberry and iPod don’t support the required bandwidth…please send word to Deskside support…) That leaves us with book obsessions, of which I have plenty, as I tend to burn through 2-3 novels a week. I gravitate towards dark subject matter and humour, things that lay waste to pretentious bullsh*t and get right to the heart of the matter, which for me is the raw beauty of being real, and not being afraid to talk about the flaws of the human condition. I’m attracted to uncensored honesty, like a moth to flame. I’ve been known to re-read my favourites every few years; for me, it’s like a sacred visit with an old friend. When God Was A Rabbit, The Summer That Melted Everything, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Lovely Bones, Fates & Furies, Freedom, Pillars of the Earth, The Way The Crow Flies, The Hour I First Believed, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, Me Talk Pretty One Day, The Dovekeepers, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, East of Eden, A Complicated Kindness, All My Puny Sorrows, Fall On Your Knees, Bird by Bird and She's Come Undone.

What’s your morning drink of choice? Favourite local café?

Instant Nescafé…this is likely your first clue that I’m not in it for the coffee. Admittedly I enjoy a little too much sugar in each cup…it’s basically hummingbird water… but hey, who’s counting other than my Doctor, who has recently taken to handing me brochures on Type II diabetes. He seems entirely uninterested in my theory that this is a step up from when I used to start my days with a tall, cool icy glass of Coke. He’s a tough nut, but I’ll crack him.

My favourite local café is Brewed Awakening, mostly for the egg salad sandwiches. All they’re missing really, is a giant community bowl of Tang. Then I’d basically live there.

How do you take care of yourself during the weekend?

As I shared, I don’t differentiate between days of the week. When it comes to self-care, I’m an all-in or all-out sort of gal, so I don’t subscribe to the exercise 2-3 days a week sort of programs. Heck, I’d then find a way to successfully punt that sh*t down the road for years.

I look at taking care of myself as I would taking care of an old, used car. My motor still runs, I can get from point A to point B, although at this stage it takes more maintenance, and admittedly I’m a little less confident at what will happen when I go to turn the key. So, I do what needs to be done daily to avoid any glaring red “check engine” lights. On any given day, you can likely find me strapping on my ankle weights from the 90s, and heading out on a 5 km power walk. I will then stretch, do yoga and swing a kettlebell (and pray nothing in my arm rips) for approximately 15 minutes. That’s it. Nothing fancy. To say I enjoy exercise would be a gross overstatement. Truth be told, when someone says, “Oooooh, I LOVE exercising…” I want to shove them into a wall, so that’s why I swing weights, so I’m able to shove them should the perfect opportunity present itself. Being physically fit and young at heart is also a good buffer to absorb a ridiculously long list of bad habits, which mercifully was omitted from the list of questions.

But mostly, I take care of myself for my kids. When they want to ski, I want to be there with them. When they want to jet-pack, hit the water-slides, rip on the roller coasters, travel the world, sh*t themselves on the drop of doom, or climb an ungodly amount of ancient stone steps to see a view, I want to be there with them every step of the way, for as long as I’m able. Being physically active is a gift; having fought my way back from a significant incident many moons ago, my health is now a gift I carry with gratitude (and 10-pound ankle weights).

What are your plans for the summer?

I measure my life in summers, which for me, is both exquisitely beautiful and intoxicatingly terrifying. I am now deep into the last summer with my oldest son. How’d that happen? We stumble through our days exuding the quiet (rather unfortunate) confidence that our time on this planet is infinite, quieting our souls with soothing balms of “one day…” or “soon…” or “when I finish this, then maybe…” I prefer to squeeze every ounce of joy possible from ordinary moments, which is spending time with those I love most, whether that means throwing a football in the backyard, playing cards, making the perfect smoothie, trying to land a front flip on the trampoline, blowing off pellet guns and fireworks in the backyard, quad rides, vain attempts to keep flowers alive, saving baby birds who need some loving while they mend, strapping on vintage roller skates for the first time in 20 years (I now find myself in a position of authority to advise you that this is not like riding a bike…I had dreams of sailing down the streets with the wind in my hair, and in truth, didn’t even make it out of the house, my tailbone and coffee table both suffering the horrendous consequence of unwarranted self-confidence), being convinced to drive 2-hours to pick up a rescue bunny who needs a new home, watching my kids do what they love (football, football, hockey, volleyball, basketball, handball and more football…), or piling into our mini van (secretly, I'm hoping to stumble across Jimmy Hoffa’s remains amongst the scattered pistachio shells and discarded chicken nuggets) to go on grand adventures together. And by grand, I mean Manitoba. Obviously.

I really do believe that it’s the ordinary moments that add up to an extraordinary life.

So, what are my plans for this summer? My plans hinge around the philosophy that summer is meant for making no plans. When your entire year feels structured and scheduled to within an inch of each calendar week, I’d like to think that summers are meant to fall off the face of the earth; it’s that one glorious fold in time to be as feral as possible without the cops being called. Think bush wolves roaming through the prairies, padding through fields of gold under majestic blue skies, likely up to no good but nevertheless, on the hunt to find joy in every moment. That’s us in the summer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.