So the Freecycle machine did not work out. I read the repair book, it was still beyond me how to fix the machine, which was getting the thread tangled and caught in the bobbin casing. I decided to send it back out into the Freecycle-o-sphere. However, I posted an honest offer, detailing the shape it's in and the inability to procure a manual. I got a taker and it's out of my house. Phew!
Meanwhile, my friend who is trying to draw me into her web of crafting has not given up on me and gave me her old machine! (Thank you!) She scoffed at the idea of an instruction manual, but the machine is only a few years old and I was able to get the manual off the manufacturer's website (bonus because I thought I'd have to shell out $15 to buy one).
Of course, there is always an obstacle and right now, it's that I don't have a full-size spool of thread. The Freecycle machine came with one and I left it on there. So someday, I will get to a craft store or a fabric store and get some thread. I will buy good quality thread, having learned from a sewing machine book that people should not cheap out on thread (the chapter was titled something like "People get cheap in the weirdest places"). The implication being that they have already spent perhaps hundreds of dollars on the machine.
Meanwhile, I look at the sewing porn and ponder all the wonderful projects I could undertake. This has resulted in a number of spirited e-mails among other friends who have experience sewing and own machines. Perhaps it sounds too stereotypical, homeschoolers who sew their own clothes, but you've got to see some of the projects we're considering. Corset necktie belts, anyone?
Once again, option paralysis sets in and I have no idea what to make. I am thinking I might stitch a simple cover for the sewing machine. Another tidbit I picked up from the sewing books, never cover your machine in plastic, it makes the machine "sweat." That and use crocous cloth (available at your local hardware store) to gently buff out any 'burrs' on your machine needle or plate.
Yup, once again I have acquired a whole lot of knowledge that doesn't enable me to do anything.
2012 follow-up -- I'm finally sewing!