Panel 1: Strip and retcons are coordinated. Mike, why did you quit your job if you didn't think !!THE BOOK!! was going to put you on easy street?
Panel 2: A house is a good investment, but I don't understand the first sentence. You can't look at apartments because you're living with John and Elly? Or you don't want to stay in the cycle of living with J&E and half-assedly "looking" for apartments? Probably the second, but what an odd way to phrase it. And Mike, how is it risky, compared to living in your old firetrap? Admit it: you just don't want to grow up.
Panel 3: You can get the ANSWERS to those questions. Find out what he's asking, and go inside to check it out. What's "right for you," anyway? The three lots will be a sticking point, of course, but since we know how that will turn out, what the frak is making you say no automatically? It's okay to have doubt AFTER exploring an option, but panicking at the IDEA of exploring an option is idiotic and babyish.
Panel 4: Crimeny. This is Deanna's life: begging her husband to take any kind of initiative at all.
Panel 5: Mike, get bent. What kind of living place do you want, for frak's sake? Deanna is desperate to get a place of your own: does her happiness mean nothing to you? Why do I even ask that?
At dantheman's request, I'm summarizing the letters. Just the plot points, stuff that should be in the strip.
Elly: She hates winter. She visits Jim occasionally, and sometimes Iris gets half an hour or so off, IF Jim is "sleeping or having a good day." Meaning, Elly doesn't want to give him any real care. If she can't just sit there, then it's Iris's job. She went to PT with them, and hung around outside. Saw a sign informing people that hand sanitizer is flammable if not completely dry, and had a laugh thinking of some evil smoker setting his hands on fire. Later, Iris poured her heart out, and all Elly got from that is that Iris talking to Jim is like talking to no one. And all this makes her realize how lucky she is to have her health.
Meanwhile, John is helping Mike an' Dee plan a budget to buy a house of their own. Mira and Wilf are also, and Elly does NOT make a snide remark. April spends most of her time in the basement, and it's okay because Elly says she's made it into her "pad." The whole house is tense, in fact, and Elly calls it "Survivor: Patterson Edition." Liz has something going on with Warren but won't say what, and makes noises about getting her own place as well. Elly feels like getting HER own place, because she has no "me time." She lets tension build up, then either yells at John or goes to Connie's to vent. As if Connie needs to hear it.
John: The reason Liz yelled at him the other night is because she's fragile (he uses the word twice) and not responding to logic. You have to be fragile to rebuff his "light conversation," you see. April feels like she's living in a dungeon after being the princess in the family. But she's putting a good face on things. She's ready to move on, and so is Elly.
George Stibbs is ready to sell. Mike has no head for business, but Deanna does, and in fact, she makes $100,000 a year. She wants the TTH; Mike does not. The house has a lot of potential for John and Elly, but not much for Deanna and Mike. In fact, Deanna would want to sell the two extra lots, which John thinks is crazy talk. Don't tell anyone, but secretly, John wants the house himself, if he can just talk Elly into it. Everett is ready to take over the clinic, and seeing Jim makes John realize how well-off he is. All in all, he thinks the family is in for some exciting changes.
Liz: It's important for teachers to be good disciplinarians. Troublemakers are no fun, and disrupting the class is bad. As such, Liz is developing a rep for being a tough teacher. Students know they won't get away with anything in her classroom.
She's also going to spend her spring break looking for a new place to live. Having people around all the time makes her grouchy. She's very strict about what she wants in an apartment. For instance, no one should be living above her, and she has to have a bathtub. She also does not want a lease. She did not like sharing a kitchen. And she kind of misses Mtig, but does not want to think about it.
See, Warren is a really nice guy, even though she's not ready to have a "relationship" yet. He did the right thing, taking her to Mtig a day early. She was just fantasizing about Paul, and he wasn't what she thought he was. But she doesn't hate him or Susan; she just hates hurting. Meanwhile, she's also going to see Candace and Rudy over break. And just so you know, the going-after really affected her, even though it didn't look like much when it happened. Do you get it now?
April: She's about to start driving lessons. She really wants to be able to get around on her own. Anything to get away from the house. Currently, she's been taking the bus to a music store. She's thinking of buying tablas (drums) for Jim so he can get arm exercise. Contrary to what Elly says, she knows he still understands music; he just needs some kind of incentive. And she has an eye for the body-art-having music store employees. She's also really into a school project for history class.
Mike: He has good memories of Portrait, but his resignation consisted of handing the letter to his assistant and leaving without saying goodbye to anyone except her. He has a vague interest in getting a place for his own family, but seems to regard it mostly as a pipe dream.
His book will be called "Stone Season." He hopes to have the same positive results with his next book. He's also going to keep working with Josef Weeder, who gets the full-name treatment, perhaps because too many people were wondering why he was called "Weed". Weed and Carleen have a lot of concrete plans for restoring the houses. Lovey and Morrie are retiring, and the Kelpfroths have been released from hospital. Winnie had smoke inhalation and a broken ankle (?) and Melville had second degree burns on his back and hands. Mike wonders if Mel is still smoking.
Mike is also working on his second book. Main character is 23, a cook on a windjammer. Somehow, this is his first job, and it requires him to peel potatoes. The character is a lot like Mike: "heading out into unknown territory, hoping he'll survive."
Deanna: She's over the moon that Mike quit Portrait. She's looking forward to his spending more time with his family. As for the house, they have 20K in savings, 25K from Mike's advance, and can count on another 20 from her parents. So she thinks they can "swing something in the $400,000 range." And she actually really wants a "sewing room" where she can make jewelry. See, her parents had "off limits" rooms in their house, so she's going to do the same. Her kids already know they're not allowed in certain rooms, like John's workshop, without an adult. Like they know they're not supposed to flush anything that doesn't get eaten first, I suppose.
She likes the city, not so much the suburbs. Strip malls and subdivisions are cold and heartless. She's also a Rush fan, apparently. Mike hates the city, but Deanna thinks they're lucky to have a choice. A home is a home if you make it one. And what really appeals to her is living like the Hurons: entire extended families in a "longhouse." But she's not close to her parents, emotionally or physically, so at least it would be nice to live near John and Elly. Even though Merrie and Robin wear Elly out. The fire sure was a catalyst, wasn't it!
The Olds: Iris feels trapped. But she can't leave Jim alone. Luckily they have such nice physical therapists. She can understand him, perhaps not "reading him like a book," but she gets the gist of it. Sometimes when people visit who are not familiar with his post-stroke demeanor, it's shocking to them. She wishes they could still go to church, but they can't risk Jim boxcaring during the sermon. Mike is particularly taken aback by this, but April has been terrific, visiting and playing her guitar for Jim. Also, being non-verbal has enabled Jim to read others' poker faces.
Pets: Not much to say, except that Shiimsa is still being standoffish. Perhaps she knows her owner has overstayed her welcome, and doesn't want to do the same.