Bush Talks About Life Outside the White House

Mrs. Bush adjusts to real life; lacking essentials, fighting for newspaper.

HOUSTON Feb. 26, 2009— -- Commercial airline travel, trips to the hardware store for nightlights and walks around the neighborhood -- all part of everyday life these days for former President George W. Bush and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Mrs. Bush said she and her husband were settling into a normal, post-presidency life at their new home in the Preston Hollow section of Dallas after spending a month at their ranch in Crawford while the house was finished.

Mrs. Bush said she has yet to cook a meal herself, because friends have been bringing over prepared dinners to welcome them back to town. The Bushes have had several large dinner parties with old friends, but they had to resort to borrowing furniture to accommodate their guests.

"We have very little furniture. We don't have a kitchen table or a dining room table," she said. "Friends loaned me a kitchen table and the other night I had 16 people for dinner and I had to borrow chairs from the Secret Service next door."

After years of having everything they wanted right at their finger tips, the Bushes are finding that sometimes the little things are the most difficult to get.

"The only thing we don't have are the newspapers. It has been slow to get The Dallas Morning News delivered," she said. "People bring the newspaper to us later in the day. It's just not being delivered yet."

Despite the lack of newspaper delivery at their new home, the former first lady said they are keeping up with the news back in the nation's capital but they certainly are not operating on Washington's clock.

In fact, Mrs. Bush said she did not watch President Obama's address to Congress on Tuesday night because she "totally forgot about it."

"The next day I thought it was so ironic that for eight years I would be a nervous wreck before the State of the Union, and for days before, as George would be preparing his speech, worried about it and thinking about what was going to be in the speech. And this time it came and went and I didn't even think about it."

Bush: I Hope to Return to Afghanistan

At the White House, Mrs. Bush made support for Afghanistan's women – who endured brutal repression under the Taliban regime – one of her signature issues. She traveled three times there, including two solo trips without the president. Previously, no first lady had ever visited Afghanistan.

Mrs. Bush traveled to Houston this week for the launch of an exhibit of recently discovered ancient artifacts on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston from the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul.

The former first lady said she hopes to return to Afghanistan but for now she is watching closely to see what the Obama administration does in the region. So far she's encouraged by his commitment to Afghanistan and hopes that the government and the American people continue to support rebuilding efforts there. She said there are "encouraging signs" out of Afghanistan as well, but the United States must continue to have a presence there, working with the Afghan people and government to rebuild what she called "a failed state."

"What we see is it's very easy to destroy something, but very, very difficult to rebuild. And that's what we're watching now," she said.

As first lady, Mrs. Bush visited over 70 countries, bringing awareness to issues like women's rights, education and prevention of HIV/AIDS and malaria.

The opportunity she had to represent the American people abroad is one aspect of the White House that she said she misses, but she plans to remain active on interests important to her through the Freedom Institute that will be a part of former President Bush's library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

"The Freedom Institute isn't just freedom from tyranny, although that will be a central part of it, but also freedom from disease, freedom from poverty, and freedom from illiteracy," she said.