Okay. I think I got it. I have no idea why this happened.
It looks to me like for some reason the "owner" of the "My Games" folder was not open to me (I'm the only 'administrator' user on the system (there is another account set up for my kids with all sorts of filters, etc.). I found this out when I tried to manually put a skyrimprefs.ini file from the Steamaps folder into the Skyrim folder I manually made in "my games." It let me do this, but when I went to edit the copied file in my games, which went fine, and then save it, it refused to let me. I thus googled the permission/owner thing and came up with something else to try.
Yet another reason why I should (wifey!!) have a dedicated rig for ME and they can have their Facebook, Poptropica, Webkins and miscellaneous garbage machine.
Anyway, my guess is the software wasn't being allowed to put items in the 'my games' location. I got down to this after moving Steam to my unused D drive, which still didn't help (but did take a long time).
Then I was about to erase the whole thing and impose said "you will now have your own computer for what you do and we'll buy it at Costco and you won't touch mine" rule when I figured out I should check ownership of those folders.
I haven' had issues with other games, but maybe they put their stuff in their own spot.
Anyway, it seems to work.
Does anyone know what would cause folders I started with having full access to all of a sudden restricted??
Here is the link I used to figure this out in case anyone else has this problem of "ownership."http://www.addictivetips.com/windows-tips/windows-7-access-denied-permission-ownership/
I'm going to cut and past this to the Bethesda forums.
I swear, pc gaming is a young man's game (or else someone with lots more free time than I have...!).