Wood and brick and paint say so much about a house. Of course, it’s not the money spent on the structure that gives it value – it’s the way the pieces are put together.

That’s a neighborhood for you, too.

Proximity causes people who probably wouldn’t choose to be friends become them, and adjacent lots have a tendency to overcome ideas representing a lifetime of diversity.

It sounds so simple and easy, this life in a neighborhood, but anyone with a TV knows it’s not.

There are days when moving away seems like the easy way out, but there’s something about Lake Highlands that keeps us here. Something about the daily hum of neighborhood life, the regular and the unusual, that you just can’t find in the suburbs.

Every day, the sun rises and sets on hard-working neighbors – both rich and poor of virtually every race – dedicated to the best for their children, the worst for criminals and a will to make City government work, if not for us, then for the next guy.

We asked writer and neighborhood resident Joan Jackson and photographer Robert Bunch to tell this tale in words and photos. Here’s what they say about our home.

As interest rates have dropped, a curious virus has invaded Lake Highlands. I call it “Take Action Spotted Fever” and, trust me, it is highly contagious.

It begins with an open-ended debate at breakfast tables throughout the neighborhood. Should we refinance? As long as we’re refinancing, shouldn’t we go ahead and remodel? Or would it be wiser to just sell and go searching for the perfect house? (The same one everyone else is looking for.)

At this house, our children were very open to new possibilities. They would gladly move to a new house, as long as it was in sight of our current one. How’s that for commitment to Lake Highlands? And we, too, would be very reluctant to leave our neighbors and friends.

We could get a lot more house for the money in the suburbs, but we could never get a lot more neighborhood. Years ago, I read a rating of the hottest neighborhoods in Dallas. Lake Highlands didn’t make the trendy list; instead, it was described as a place where people still mowed their own lawns. A lot of those hot areas have since crashed. To us, a steady, comfortable community is the best investment we can make.

It’s funny how a house pulls on you. Ours is typical of Lake Highlands circa 1961; sturdy but dated. Builders in that era must have loved cramming as many doors as possible along long narrow hallways and had a real fondness for aluminum windows.

And yet we love our good-size lot on the hill, our huge trees and the original wood floors. We use the nearby hike and bike trail and can stroll down to White Rock Stables.

We don’t want to give up flying kites at Flag Pole Hill or holding soccer practice at the White Rock Elementary community park.

After 11 years, it’s still exciting to spot the occasional raccoon or possum in our alley. If we rise at dawn, we’re apt to see Francie Larrieu Smith, the world class distance runner, running down our street.

When our children were pre-schoolers, they were amazed to see that somehow Mr. Peppermint (a.k.a. Lake Highlands resident Jerry Haynes) had jumped out of the television set right into our neighborhood.

In short, we’ve decided to stay and perform radical surgery on beloved “ranchburger.”

There is a distinct advantage to ranchburgers; they have no distinction, a quality our architect loved. It can be anything you want it to be. And we want it to be open and airy, sort of a cross between Santa Fe hip and a ski lodge.

All that requires is the nerve to knock out walls, raise some ceilings, replace the sliding doors that don’t slide anyway and put in recessed lights.

Well, a little more than that.

New kitchen counters to update the original turquoise blue Formica ones. A powder room so visitors won’t wander through the whole house looking for a bathroom. And a simple, serene master suite upstairs.

Of course, each change sets off an avalanche of decision-making.

The biggest one is where to put a staircase. (One family member’s idea for a drawbridge was overruled.) We’ve heard the usual remodeling horror stories, which, for the record, are like telling an expectant mother grueling childbirth tales.

Besides, people forget to mention that it is incredibly exciting to see a house transformed and improved, just like seeing a neighborhood improve. I like seeing the new development at Audelia and McCree. And the houses near Flag Pole Hill.

I like seeing Lake Highlands on the move again with an energetic commitment to improve the community. The other night, after it finally rained, we grabbed our flashlights and climbed up the dusty stairs to look around.

And with the atrium door open to what will be a small deck, there was a cool breeze and clear, open sky to the east. All the other windows overlook the large live oaks, pecans and magnolias that surround us.

And we realized this is going to be a wonderful tree house for grown-ups.

I’m excited about Whole Foods Market coming to Kingsley and Skillman. And let’s support Minyard’s for making a commitment to the Audelia-Kingsley center where so many other grocers have not found the right formula. Kudos also to Savings of America for designing a beautiful facility in the same center.

The landscape of Lake Highlands is changing rapidly. Maybe the long incubation period of “Take Action Spotted Fever” is over.

Just remember, by the time you recognize the symptoms, the ceiling may be crashing in on you.