Note: This interview took place in early June, when school was still in session.
By Elliott Wright
Our next COVID-19 Check-In features Lisa Frei. At the start of the pandemic lockdown, she and her family had lots of energy to discover different ways of keeping busy. From outdoor activities in their backyard to dabbling in homebrewing, the Freis always found something to do. As time passed and they began to feel a little burnt-out, they took some time to relax and delve into streamable television series, books, and music. I gave Lisa a call in early June to learn about the family’s quarantine projects as well as what they do to unwind.
Lisa, several parents I have interviewed have educated me on the process of adding teaching from home to their daily repertoire. How did schooling at home work for you?
Yes, so I’m homeschooling Carter, my youngest. He goes to Richmond Street School, so that has been taking up the majority of my time, doing that. I do want to add that all the staff there are doing an amazing job. Carter’s teacher, Carolyn Elder, is truly phenomenal.
Now I’m trying to get through this last week; we have one more week to go! The hard part of it is trying to figure out the best way to help him learn. You know, we aren’t teachers, right?! I mean, I have an MBA, but I’m not a teacher. So that part, and just trying to keep him engaged, have been challenging.
I think the hardest thing for the kids is the social aspect of being home. Carter misses his teachers and his friends.
What are some ways you have tried to foster social connections for your family?
I’m a den leader for Cub Scouts, for Carter. We did a virtual campout with the den. I’ve got thirteen scouts that are all in third grade. Everyone pitched tents in their own backyards, and we were all on a Zoom call together. We made s’mores and told ghost stories. A lot of the kids slept in their tents that night. The kids liked it. We’re just trying to find ways to keep them connected.
What do you feel has been the most creative way you have passed the time since lockdown began?
We got the MasterClass series, the app. We kind of got into mixology—experimenting and making different cocktails. That has been really fun.
One part of the class was to infuse bourbon with beeswax. You put it in a sous-vide bath. It’s basically a device that heats up water to a specific temperature. You vacuum-seal the bourbon with beeswax pellets, which you can find on Amazon, and you melt them together. Then you take the wax off, and you make this whole cocktail with what is left. That was fun.
In another class, we made cheese—fresh mozzarella. That was exciting too.
Through the grapevine I also heard that you began fermenting your own beer?
So my eldest son, Brett, and my husband, Tim brewed their own beer. We actually just drank some; it was finally ready. They started that at the beginning of lockdown. They did a citra-IPA.
They are actually on their second batch of that now. They bought a kit online. It was something Brett had received for Christmas but hadn’t had time to use. But now we have the time. I’m amazed at how well it turned out. For this batch, I think they are doing another IPA and I believe a wheat beer as well.
It seems like the Frei family has been super busy! When you wind down at the end of the day, what sort of television have you been watching?
We have watched Ozark; that’s one of our favorites. We also enjoy Bosch on Amazon Prime. I feel like Tiger King was a million years ago [laughs]. Lately I have been watching a show called Crash Landing on You, which is a Korean romantic comedy.
Brett has been watching The Legend of Korra, which is the sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender.
The shows we stream as a family include a number of Disney nature shows because they make us all happy.
The one that made us laugh the most was Schitt’s Creek.
When you find some time for yourself, what have you been doing?
I read a lot. Since lockdown I’ve read about 10 books. I just finished The Henna Artist, by Alka Joshi, which is my most recent book. Some others include The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson; The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett; American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins; The Stand, by Stephen King; and The Library Book, by Susan Orlean.
I also listen to books on Audible when I walk the dog or when I’m doing stuff in the house.
Speaking of listening to books, what sort of music have you and the family been exploring?
It’s funny, we have listened to a lot of older music. We were recently playing a lot of Bruce Springsteen, kind of introducing our kids to him, who weren’t familiar.
Lizzo was playing yesterday; we listen to all sorts of different stuff. My daughter Blaire, who lives in West LA, will come home to visit. She always has something new that she likes and so she’ll play it for us, and then we’ll get into it. [We discover] lots of different artists that way.
Earlier you mentioned that you have an MBA. As of early June, it looks like the stock market has been on a steady rise. Do you think this will be a continuing trend? Might the market regress if there is another spike in cases?
That’s the big question, right? We’ve seen the market rebound from the big downturn at the beginning of COVID-19. With interest rates at historic lows, people are looking to put their money somewhere, so it’s helping to prop up the stock market.
What are some of the things you miss about life pre-COVID-19? Or rather, what are you looking forward to as we transition into a new reality?
We are all just looking forward to seeing our friends and starting to socialize more in person. Also, being able to get out and travel again. That is something we are really missing. We have spent a lot of time looking at photo albums from our recent trips.
When the world went on lockdown, we saw the planet’s environment change almost overnight for the better. Do you think we will take notice of this positive shift and try to continue the trend?
I certainly hope so. It seems like everybody has a renewed appreciation for the clean air, for the views of the mountains, even the cityscape. The empty freeways. I hope that everyone just feels a greater appreciation for what’s around us.
The first weekend everything shut down, Tim and I were amazed at the fact that we were home for the weekend and there was nothing we had to do. It was a relief!
With the opportunity—and time—to think about what matters, will there be more compassion for other people moving forward? Especially with regard to what has happened in the past several weeks, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death?
I hope so. I feel like there’s definitely an attention being brought to injustice right now, obviously. And it also seems to be directing people toward caring for their fellow humans.
The time that we all had to pause and think about things has maybe brought us all a little bit closer to our own humanity. All the neighbors have been checking in on each other and talking to each other more than I’ve ever seen. I hope that continues into the future.
Last question: if 2020 were a beer, which one would it be?
It would be a sour, that’s what it would be! Oh my gosh. Let’s just hope that it turns around, right? Let’s hope that it becomes a margarita [laughs].