Thank you all for this information it is SO helpful!!!
I read Fred's guide, that's excellent. Also, I found a 110 page Free Spirit repair manual on Ebay (printable CD) and THAT's going to be really helpful, the schematic diagrams and instructions may give me the confidence I need to take this on myself. I'm off to go pick up my first bike now, and I'm as giddy as a little kid getting his first bicycle. This is a GREAT group of kindred souls, I'm very thankful for all your help.