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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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  • Former First Lady Laura Bush loves her freedom, 'admires' Hillary Clinton

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    Laura Bush takes in the exhibit 'Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs' at the Dallas Museum of Art a few weeks after handing over the White House.

    Things have changed dramatically for Laura Bush since she and President George W. Bush left the White House nine months ago after two terms and eight tumultuous years.

    This morning FOX411 caught up with the former first lady at the More Magazine Reinvention Convention (hosted by the magazine’s Editor in Chief, Lesley Jane Seymour), where she spoke to a group of women with daughter Jenna looking on.

    In her talk, Mrs. Bush confessed that life changed the minute she departed Washington, and while there are a few things she really misses, first and foremost she’s now relishing her freedom.

    “My husband is retired, my children are grown and out of the house, I still have my 90 year-old mother who I see all the time and I’m sort of free as a bird!” she said. “We knew what life was like after the Presidency thanks to George’s dad, George Sr. and mother, Barbara Bush. We went straight back to Midland, Texas and went to our ranch house with several couples of our best friends. That first night we knew everything had changed when George was out in the driveway directing all the luggage!”

    “We have friends that have been our friends for our whole life,” she continued. “We are very fortunate. They are our friends before the White House and after the White House. It’s very important to cultivate those friendships.”

    Mrs. Bush says much of her time since leaving the White House has been devoted to getting their new house in order. “George and I have a new house that is not furnished. Everything we had before the White House is in the ranch house, so I’ve been furnishing the house, which is fun. George says it’s sort of like playing dollhouse and I’ve always liked that since I was a little girl.”

    The one thing she misses most is the White House art. “I’ve had the chance to collect art now that we are home and that was something that I will miss – the magnificent art collection that we will never have a chance to live with again. We were very fortunate.”

    The former first couple are now living in Dallas, and Laura Bush is now working with the arts community there. “I’ve been very happy to be home. Dallas has been very welcoming and is a dynamic and vibrant city. I’m the honorary chairman of the opera and new performance hall, so that’s been fun.”

    She feels for the Obamas, who have two young daughters to raise, and credits the Clintons with setting a rule for press coverage on children living in the White House. “Fortunately, because Bill and Hillary had asked the press to let Chelsea have a normal life, we had a precedent for Barbara and Jenna. The press gave them some room to grow and make mistakes, which every college student does!” she laughed. “When Barbara and Jenna did make the front page once, Luci Johnson wrote a letter saying her mother, Lady Bird, had told her, ‘Just remember, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of the New York Times, because if you do it, it’ll be there!’”

    Mrs. Bush had the ladies roaring with laughter, when she admitted some of her White House memories. “Cheri Blair [Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair's wife] and I loved to commiserate about the press…and other things! George says that any time he was kind of like, ‘Why me?’, I always said ‘Hey buster, you volunteered for this!’ I volunteered too, I didn’t get paid for it, but I was along 100 percent.”

    The former first lady said she gained great respect for Hillary Clinton as she watched her difficult campaign for the 2008 election. “Our campaigns are so long and so brutal that the people who finally win are almost self-selected because they have emotional and physical stamina to run for office. As I watched Hillary Clinton during her run, I had and have a lot of admiration for her. It’s tough every day. It’s not just physical or emotional, but just the chance of saying one thing that gets blown up by the media!”

    Something Laura Bush managed not to do during her whole talk. (Except maybe the Hillary Clinton thing.)

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