Thrills, spills, medical billsLast year for Christmas, all I wanted was a pair of roller blades.

After all, it was the latest summer sensation, since skateboarding, windsurfing and mountain bikes.Santa came through, delivering roller blades with florescent pink wheels and matching laces.

While gazing at what I thought the ultimate Christmas pile, I realized at $169 a pair, roller blades must have set St. Nick back a little.

Without giving the rest of my presents another thought, I anxiously began to lace up my "get-back-into-shape-the-fun-way" blades. I very cautiously sat up, braced myself and aimed for the back door.

While standing, my ankles felt weak and my legs wobbly. Before that moment I thought that I was in semi-decent shape for a 27-year-old female.

My first few slides were a bit awkward. Hoping it was only the carpet making it difficult to move, I inched my way to the door where I encountered our cement step.

The moment my blades hit the step I did a perfect "V" into the air, landing spread-eagle on my tush. My mom gave me a 9.5 for finesse.

She grabbed her camera and tried to make it a "Kodak Moment" but she was laughing so hard she couldn't focus.

And I was laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face. Eventually, I got to my feet, lurched and tip-toed across the driveway to the sidewalk.

My goal was to make it around the block. If I could do this, I felt I would be on my way to becoming a "roller blading studette."

As I rounded the first corner and headed down the hill, I suddenly realized I did not know how to slow the things down.

As the landscape whizzed by at the speed of sound I remembered that on the back of my right blade was a small black rubber ball (skid pad) designed to help the "blader" slow or stop. All I needed to do was bend my left leg while extending my right straight out. This applies pressure to the skid pad.

But for some reason, the high-tech device wasn't working. So I did the next best thing. I used the high-tech lawns to bring my 4-foot-11 body to a teeth-shattering stop. And in the process discovered some high-tech sprinkler heads in the lawn.

I skated home and asked my parents, "Did you take out an insurance policy on me recently?"

Even though my first experience with blading inflamed my ulcer, I enjoyed it. However, I thought it prudent to invest in knee pads and a helmet. I mean, you don't find high-tech lawns everywhere.

Like on the boardwalk in San Diego, where I found myself on New Year's Eve.

Standing next to the beach dressed to die in my matching blades and bikini, I was amazed at the caliber of skating. I couldn't even stop when I wanted to, and these people were zipping past me twirling and jumping through the air.

Not wanting to advertise the fact that I was a novice, I decided to get help. I went into the nearest skate shop and asked the salesman for some pointers. For example, "How do you stop these things?"

His first response was to laugh at me. Then he said, "All you need to know is the T-stop."

To execute a T-stop, you place one of your roller blades behind you, perpendicular to the other blade, and drag it along the ground. It's sort of like throwing out the anchor.

So I headed back out on the boardwalk to give it a try. An hour later, I could at least stop the things when I wanted to, although I still wasn't getting many points for gracefulness. And nobody was coming up and asking me for pointers.

I've done some practicing since then. I'm still not very good at roller blading but I'm having a lot of fun.

And here it is almost Christmas time again. I think I`ll ask Santa for a car stereo . . .